Actor Steve Buscemi of Reservoir Dogs and Con Air fame was a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) before he switched gears and went into acting. In his informative and moving documentary, A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, Buscemi says, “I was a New York City firefighter for only about four years back in the 1980s. What I did not realize then is how much the job would stay with me and be a part of my life.”
Firefighters tend to be the first in and the last out of some of the most dire situations one can imagine. This simple fact, compounded with the intense chaos of a fire scene, makes incident command and firefighter safety an extraordinary challenge, and one that has led to the development of various accountability systems in recent years. Now, to a certain extent, there have been some understandable complaints among firefighters regarding “oversafety” procedures complicating an already complex and high-stress situation on the ground; but make no mistake, this could never be said to apply to firefighter tags.
“Every so often, in the midst of chaos, you come across an amazing, inexplicable instance of civic responsibility. Maybe the last shred of faith people have is in their firemen.”
― Kurt Vonnegut (Hocus Pocus)
At first glance they may appear to be little more than an inexpensive imprinted piece of plastic, yet firefighter accountability tags are so much more than that. Nor should they be considered a small but purposeless example of bureaucratic meddling. And never make the mistake of assuming that they are indistinguishable from mere name tags, the kind you would find at a garden club soirée or a corporate meet-and-greet. In reality, firefighter tags serve a very real, practical, and life-saving purpose.
Which is exactly the number-one priority of firefighters: the saving of lives (closely followed by getting the fire under control and preventing further damage to property). It is in the saving of firefighters’ lives that accountability tags find their highest purpose.
As everyone knows, fighting fires is a dangerous and deadly business. The primary goal is to save lives, and secondarily to protect property. The number one responsibility of the on-scene commander is to keep the other firefighters as safe as possible. And the first line of defense in that regard is having a reliable firefighter accountability system in place and correctly deployed.
What Is Firefighter Accountability?
Simply put, firefighter accountability is a system designed to account for all firefighter personnel within the most dangerous area of an incident site. Properly deployed, the use of a firefighter personnel accountability system provides safety for individual firefighters by giving incident command staff a means to track and account for all personnel and their whereabouts within the danger area at any given time. Continue reading “The Proper Deployment of a Firefighter Accountability System”