By now many of you may have seen the reports making their way around the internet circuit relating to the regrettable circumstances in DeKalb County, Georgia. If you haven’t caught up on the incident particulars then check out these links, HERE, HERE and HERE for starters.
There are some poignant and significant issues that clearly come to light relating to the basic and fundamental premise of Company and Command Officer Responsibility, Accountability and Complacency. Three words that when aligned with an alarm response, based upon caller information, communications dispatch and organizational protocols and procedures; sends a deployment of fire resources to report of a dwelling fire with the expectation that you’ll perform your duties in a prescribed manner based upon your training, knowledge, skills and protocols. In other words; “You’ve got a run” to a report of a possible structure fire. It’s 01:03 hours in the morning and you’re in the street running the call. The balance of the alarm dispatch arrives; only to find nothing apparent or evident. How many times has this happened to you and your company? What have been the results, what could have been different?
Think about the numerous instances that you’ve takin’ in a dispatch for a reported condition that ultimately turns into something very predictable, routine- in the sense of frequency with similar outcomes. The repetitiveness and frequency of some alarms has a tendency to lessen an officer’s sensitivity to the circumstances, situational awareness and latent indicators that may be present, but may not be recognized or acted upon. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, then it’s time for a wake-up call. This type of performance is not only unacceptable, it borders on levels of dereliction and negligence.
As in the incident in DeKalb County, Georgia, fire officials launched an investigation into a house fire that occurred early Sunday morning, when firefighters responded twice to the same residence. The first time it was prematurely and ineffectively determined that there was nothing evident immediately following arrival and fire department services were not needed. The second alarm response five hours later resulted in a fully involved residential structure upon arrival, with a resulting occupant death. It was the actions during the first response that have resulted in four fire department officers; an Officer in Charge, two Captains and a Battalion Chief being place on leave with pay. at the present time. Here’s more from an article by Jaye Watson from WXIA-TV on the incident and investigation. DeKalb County fire officials have released their preliminary findings and have issued a report that you can find HERE.
A dispatch, and arrival; no evidence of fire, no walk-around, no 360, no investigation, no command implementation, no one getting out of their apparatus. Seven minutes elapsed following arrival and companies are returning; incident unfounded, services not required. More than five hours later at 6:40 a.m. neighbors called 911 to report a house engulfed in flames.
Read it, understand what took place and see what you would have done. I began talking about the fundamental premise of Company and Command Officer Responsibility, Accountability and Complacency. After reading the report, think about these three functional areas of Responsibility, Accountability and Complacency. There certainly shouldn’t be a need for a long dissertation on the meaning and relationships of these words and their relationship to any Company or Command Officer. IF, you understand your job, your duties; responsibilities and accountability to your company, your organization and the citizens you protect, THEN Accountability is a natural extension of everything. Oh, one more thing, let’s add Expectations to the basic mix; fundamental towards carrying out our sworn duties.
So the next time you find yourself “racing” to a scene and “racing” through the motions for what apparently may be a nothing of a call, think about the resulting actions and affects of the DeKalb County call and think about RACE: Responsibility, Accountability, Complacency and Expectations.