The Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) recently sent three Incident Safety Officer Academy instructors to Hong Kong to train members of the Hong Kong Fire Services Department (HKFSD).
Shadd Whitehead, Chief, Livonia Fire Department, Michigan, USA, Stephen Raynis, Assistant Chief, Fire Department of New York (FDNY) USA, and Rich Marinucci, Executive Director, FDSOA, traveled to Hong Kong in November to facilitate the Incident Safety Officer classes to all three shifts of the HKFSD safety teams, some senior officers and members of their training academy staff.
The Incident Safety Officer (ISO) class is a two-day course intended to provide applicable tools to officers assigned the role of safety on the scene of an emergency. It is a different responsibility than the other roles on the fire ground and requires viewing the emergency differently from a strategic or tactical perspective. The course also helps prepare the students for the ProBoard examination that leads to certification.
Each HKFSD shift included four teams, composed of a minimum of three members. Approximately 75 people attended the two-day courses over the six days it was offered. Though some cultural and terminology differences existed, the course was well received by participants.
“The ISO course was extremely comprehensive and useful for developing the Incident Safety Team in Hong Kong as it was slightly adjusted to suit the local needs,” said Ronald Wong, Senior Divisional Officer (Technical Rescue), Hong Kong Fire Services Departments. “All attendees agreed that they have learnt a lot of useful safety concepts from it. I do not have any hesitation in recommending this course for other fire departments,” Wong added.
According to the HKFSD, the major risk in Hong Kong is the 8,000-plus high-rise buildings and the tremendous density created with a population of over 8 million people. The instructors adapted some of the material to address some of these challenges, including special portions on high-rise fires presented by Stephen Raynis. The core content remained with an emphasis on reading risk, reading hazardous energy, reading firefighters, reading buildings and reading smoke.
Raynis shared that the FDSOA instructors were honoured to have the opportunity to teach the ISO concepts and principles to the HKFSD.
“All fire departments around the world have the same mission, protect life and property from fire and other hazards,” Raynis said. “In order to accomplish this mission, we must first protect the ones that serve……the firefighters. The incident safety officer is the one person the incident commander can count on to help protect the firefighters from the dangers encountered on the scene of an emergency.”
The possibility of classes in Hong Kong began last July when two members of the HKFSD attended the Incident Safety Officer class offered by the FDSOA at Fire-Rescue International in Charlotte. Their purpose, besides the training, was to ascertain the applicability of the training to their planned implementation of safety teams as a required response to fires. Those who attended the classes in Charlotte considered the training of such a quality that they recommended to their organisation that the training was delivered at the HKFSD training facility to the newly selected members of their safety team. HKFSD prepared an RFP and the FDSOA was selected as the vendor to deliver the course.
After the completion of the classes in Hong Kong, the HKFSD attendees expressed appreciation for the training and found the value for their new-found roles. They took the information as presented and were able to develop methods for their own use. As a two-day class, the information only begins to start the process for preparation to become a competent safety officer. There is a commitment to safety and minimising risk from the top of the organisation throughout. The members intend to test and apply for ProBoard certification.
Shadd Whitehead commented on the trip, “The exciting part about being able to take the ISO Academy to Hong Kong was the enthusiasm exhibited from the experienced and seasoned veterans who now make up the newly adopted ‘Safety Teams’.”
Whitehead believes the new on-scene Safety Teams show a cultural shift by the Hong Kong fire service towards committing additional trained personnel who work with the Incident Command to identify and manage risk and improve the safety of personnel through the power of observation and communication. He added, “It was certainly apparent that a renewed commitment to the fundamentals of safety will have a positive impact on injury prevention and future close-calls.”
“The Incident Safety Officer curriculum developed by the FDSOA is outstanding. The fact that a major metropolitan city halfway around the world opted for this training is a testament to that quality,” said Marinucci, executive director.
For information about the FDSOA visit: www.fdsoa.org
For information hosting or attending an on-site Incident Safety Officer Academy, contact Rich Marinucci at [email protected]
The main image shows the Course Instructors with Officers from the HKFSD. Embedded image shows a training session in one of the HKFSD classroom facilities. Photographs supplied by the FDSOA.