Citizen Supplied Incident Scene Rehab

Thinking outside the box…is awesome!

I helped out with some active shooter training at Sandy Springs Fire Department last week and I witnessed an approach to incident scene rehab that I’d never seen before.

Incident scene rehab is one of the most important and, in my opinion, most frequently underemphasized functions in the fire scene. Firefighters have just undergone, arguably, the most physically, emotionally, and psychologically demanding job functions possible. And, while handing them a bottle of water and telling them to sit under a nearby shade tree for awhile is good, it is far from optimal.

Something else that is pivotal for a healthy fire department is public support. Public involvement with the fire department might be the best way to garner that support when a department is professional and progressive.

Sandy Springs has found a way to kill both of those birds with a single stone.

While I was at the training, I noticed several folks with tee-shirts labeled “Fire Corps” so I approached one of the ladies and asked about them. She explained that they were members of the public and they supported fire department operations by providing incident scene rehab.

Now you’ve got my attention! Tell me more…

It looks to me like a good way to describe Sandy Springs Fire Corps is almost like volunteer firefighters meet the fire department auxiliary. The members aren’t fighting fire but they are doing far more than simply planning the next fire department picnic.

One benefit I can see by having the members of the public perform on scene rehab is that they are enthusiastic and take true ownership of it. They give it their all! They can see that it really is a big deal and a pivotal fire ground function whereas a firefighter assigned to rehab often doesn’t realize how important that contribution is. They often, mistakenly, feel that if they aren’t inside pulling ceiling or humping hose for their engine company, they aren’t doing something important.

Don’t believe rehab is indispensable for firefighter performance? Try this. Next September eliminate all the water and Gatorade from the sidelines and see how your team performs in the second half. You’ll appreciate the job functions of the managers infinitely more I assure you!

The ladies gave a short tour around their truck, 580. I was really impressed. It was far more than a glorified snack wagon. Yes, they had snacks, and water/Gatorade, but they had much more. They refilled air bottles. They had their own radios. They had canopies they could set up, and a heater, and misting fans. They were pretty much equipped the way I always believed a thorough rehab unit would be when a department decided to take a progressive approach to rehabbing their personnel.  

I asked if they were trained medically in any capacity. Several of them are about to complete a program I believe is similar to the First Responder Course which is 40 hours and pretty comprehensive for basic medical emergencies. This will give them the ability to also check firefighter vital signs before a firefighter is reassigned. Somebody with a blood pressure of 220/108 and a pulse of 118 has no business gearing up again until their baseline returns closer to normal. That’s a no brainer.

Yep, thinking outside the box, never underestimate it.

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