I recently read an article on npr.com that drilled down into an investigation by the Kansas City Star which examined 20 years’ worth of firefighter deaths all around the US. The investigation concluded that many deaths are caused by “preventable mistakes,” and a big reason is an inadequate level of emergency training. For that reason alone, the article really piqued my interest.
The npr.com article is here, and it encompasses an interview with the Kansas City Star reporter who helped write the story. As you will learn by reading the article, most of the firefighter deaths were caused by silly failures to follow protocol, like rushing into a building before sizing it up, or not carrying a hose with water in it.
The article reinforced in my mind the importance of emergency training, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about firefighters, utility restoration workers, police officers or EMTs. Any and all emergency responders must be trained thoroughly and regularly – encompassing a mix of textbook or video training as well as practicing emergency processes and protocols by participating in scenario-based emergency exercises and drills.
Luckily, fewer utility lineman die in the call of duty than firefighters, but my key point remains the same – in order to be efficient, effective, and most of all safe in an emergency situation, it is absolutely critical to learn and practice. And practice. And practice some more. If this philosophy was followed more religiously over the past 20 years, perhaps there would have been fewer firefighter deaths. We will never know, but one thing I do know is that these are lessons that we can use as justification for enhancing focus on employee training going forward.