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9-11

NEVER FORGET

Auditory Exclusion...How it can Affect our operational performance


“Everybody goes…Phone alarm Residential 1st due engine 2nd due truck fire’s in a Multiple Dwelling!  5826 Eastern pkwy Caller states fire top floor…….

When we hear these words from the house watchman, we can feel our body change instantly due to the rush of adrenaline that is now being produced in our body.  This (sympathetic response) internal process allows us to take risks that most people find unacceptable.  It gives us the ability to force our way into a burning house or apartment to search for life and put out the fire.  As we learn on and off the fire ground for every action there is a reaction.  Sometimes that reaction causes things to go bad and jeopardize the entire operation.

Brooklyn to L120-K  We are getting reports of children trapped on the top floor!  E-231 Batt 44 you got that?  “L120… 10-4, try and get a location from the caller if possible”….10-4… Brooklyn to Batt 44 we gave you 4-3 rescue squad on the reports of people trapped K….Batt 44 10-4.

When we hear those words from the dispatcher we now know there is a confirmed life hazard and our response is going to elevate to the next level to save those trapped occupants.  When we elevate that response our bodies are also preparing for this “Fight of our Life” the body knows we are going to need ever once of energy and courage under fire to complete such a task.  It’s job is to physiologically respond to this by producing a sympathetic response to allow us to perform above and beyond.   Shouldn’t we know more about this natural barrier to making the best decisions when operating at fires or emergencies? 

E-231 to Brooklyn 10-75 the box we have a heavy fire on the  5th  floor of a 6  story MD 1 street 2 similar 3 rear yard 4 is a 6ft alley.  We have one line being stretched and trucks are going to make an aggressive interior attack K.  Brooklyn to Battalion……”44 to Brooklyn All-Hands on arrival extra engine and truck we have fire out 5 windows on the 5th  floor of a 6 story multiple dwelling with people on the fire escapes K….

Your boss turns to you and says inside team get ready.  You are the forcible entry firefighter in L120 today.  It is your job to get up to that apartment on the floor above the fire and get those trapped occupants out.  Your heart is pounding and your legs are like rocks.  You are focused on the task at hand…Size up the building-climb those stairs-force that door and rescue those occupants…Are you listening to the radio?  Are you monitoring the conditions of the 1st engine and their ability to stretch around the elevator?  You pass the nozzle firefighter in 231 the first engine….

E-231 to nozzle I need that line up here on the fire floor We have fire at the door in the fire apartment”  E231 to the 44 looks like a collars mansion” and this transmission you don’t hear….L120 OV to L120  fire is venting out the windows and is increasing and decreasing in force it may be blowing in on you…..

While operating at any fire/ emergency it is important for you to always monitor the operation around you. One of the best ways to do this is to monitor radio transmissions on the fire ground to paint a picture, monitor the flow of this operation and be able to anticipate potential problems in other areas of the operation that may affect your objective.  Smart aggressive firefighters never lose sight of where they fit into the operation (accountability) and how quickly their objective can change by monitoring their SA cycle.  As you pass the fire floor you take a quick look at the operation.  The boss checks in with the 1st due engine boss to go above (I remember hearing from great firefighters that it is like a blood oath).  There are reports of people trapped and everyone is focused on the task at hand….

L123 roof to L123 you have fire blowing out the windows now on the fire floor L123 10-4….E231 to Chauf charge our line on the fire floor K, Chauf 10-4 here comes your water…L123 to Battalion 44 E-231 is moving in with the line to the rear bedrooms we have fire throughout the apartment K  B44 10-4

You charge up the stair focusing on breathing you have your face piece on and the smoke is thick and the heat is building.  The boss calls out for you to force the door to the most severely exposed apartment above the fire, after you take the door to an area of refuge you begin your assault.  The boss is searching the off apartment and you are working hard to gain entry into this apartment with another firefighter.  Just then you hear on the radio…..

Urgent Urgent Urgent, E231 to Command with and urgent we lost water on the fire floor chief we are going to need another line up here we are backing out and fire is coming at us!  Command to engine 231 10-4 we are sending another line up there with E227….OV to 123 the fire is no longer blowing out the windows it almost disappeared K

You are the Forcible entry firefighter on the floor above.  What do you do?  You are one of the lucky ones that actually heard the message.  In the fire service we are taught early on about (Visual) Tunnel Vision and how it affects your ability to process all that you see in broad view.  One thing we do not teach nor do we have enough information on how it affects the fire service, AUDITORY TUNNEL VISION (auditory rejection). 

Auditory Exclusion (Rejection) is one of the negative effects our fight or flight response has on our body’s mental performance under fire.  It can affect how and what we hear in stressful situations and cause us to miss (or reject) up to 70% of sound that we hear.  It is an unintended consequence of our ability to be brave and take risk.  We must ask at what cost to our ability to maintain operational awareness and objectiveness throughout an entire fire or emergency.     

If something is predictable it is preventable.  When we learn new information of how things are going to react under certain conditions we MUST be flexible and adaptable to this changing condition.  When we know our body is going to respond to stress in a certain way we must study it and find ways in which we can improve upon understanding it and coming up with ways to train firefighters in how to best control such a natural response to life or death situations.  It is our job as a profession to continue to make strides in improving our operational awareness and never let individual pride or company pride get in the way of operational Pride.  It is through understanding and focus that we can educate one another in the ways in which our body works how sometimes it can negatively affect our decision making on the fire ground.       

One of the ways in which we can accomplish this goal is to study current fires and human behavior of firefighters and the effects the sympathetic response during emergency operations.  It appears that all of the senses can be negatively affected during this process including speech, touch, smell, and temperature on top of visual and auditory.  Through a better understanding of the side effects of “fight or flight” we can better develop training to improve the effectiveness of our firefighting operations and reduce risk in the American Fire Service.