F.A.S.T - "It's all attitude"



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F.A.S.T - "It's all attitude"

By Robert Moyer

Your company responds to a chemical spill at a local warehouse, with reports of missing employees, possibly still in the building. Upon arrival control zones are established and at the same time the Hazardous Material Team is requested and technicians respond. Upon arrival on the scene all members are assembled and a plan devised, but before any entry teams are allowed to enter the hot zone, a FAST Team is set in place, simply for the reason that if something goes wrong, they can assist or possible rescue the entry team. The FAST Team is the entry teams only hope of surviving if something goes wrong.

A Technical High Angle Rope Rescue Team response is requested for an automobile over a steep embankment. Rescuers arrive, but before the first rescuers deploy, back-up members with safety lines are set in place, again for the reason being that if something is wrong, they can assist or rescue the "rescuers".
This is the same for most specialty teams and is enforced by SOP's, SOG's, policies and procedures and in some cases OSHA. This is why I ask myself, that the idea of using a back up team for fire suppression, it is met with so much resistance. I would never consider sending any of my fellow firefighters into the above mentioned situations without a back up team. Why is it so hard to convince somebody of the importance of a F.A.S.T, Firefighters Assistance and Search Team?

Fire Fighters In action!

NFPA statistics show that a large number of firefighters fatalities occur on the fireground. During 1995 we lost eighty-eight firefighters in the line of duty. This number was lower than in 1994, but still the fatalities of eighty-eight firefighters is too high. In 1995, over 94,000 injuries occurred in the line of duty, 50,640 were on the fireground. This comes to show that this job is and always will be dangerous.

The F.A.S.T. concept is mostly attitude. We should train or firefighters to see the warning signs that can get us into a situation that we cannot handle. We should also train our firefighters how to assist and when necessary, rescue one of our own. Train them in the techniques used in "Saving Our Own."

The attitude most definitely needs to be positive. You have to realize that when the Incident Commander places you on F.A.S.T , he is telling you that if anything happens to his men, he is counting on your team to bring them out alive. So imagine that you are a firefighter in distress. Think of those times you became disoriented in a smoke-filled room. What if you could not find your way out. You search frantically for a way out, and with each breathe of air you take, the closer you are to running out. Then suddenly the floor beneath you gives way, sending you into the gut of the fire breathing beast below. Now while all this is occurring and you are fighting for you life, think of the type of crew outside, if any, that is ready to come in and get you out. Are they upset or discouraged because they did not get to "crash and bang" on the big one? Do they have the proper equipment? Do they have the right attitude?

It is my belief that we should instill this positive style of thinking in our F.A.S.T. Teams. When someone asks you how you can justify placing firefighters on the team, when they could be out there fighting the fire, give them a copy of the NFPA statistics regarding firefighters deaths and injuries. Discuss the impact that a firefighter death can have on the fire service and their families.

I hope and pray that every time a F.A.S.T. Team is set up, it will not be needed. But just in case something goes wrong, why not have them ready? It is not just having a team and their tools ready, but having a positive attitude.
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