There’s no way for most of us to imagine what it’s like to be speeding into the unknown, expected to make a lifesaving difference.
The fire chief in San Francisco is now acknowledging that a department truck may have run over one of the plane crash victims that crews were on-scene to save Saturday. Two died and dozens were injured as their plane slammed into the tarmac at SFO.
A freight train fiasco just north of Maine has killed at least 13 in Canada with 40 people still missing.
Ten people were killed in an air taxi crash in Alaska.
Three tragedies in just two days, and for those called in to make that kind of horror go away, a checklist of questions runs through their heads along with the adrenaline.
“What is it? What are your immediate concerns? What are your long -term concerns? What are your evacuation strategies?” said Sac Metro Firefighter and department spokesman Rashawn Fulcher by way of example.
According to him, the right equipment is crucial; the right mindset and protocol measures are even more so.
The Incident Command System, or ICS ,is the national standard for how to approach these kinds of disasters.
The protocol allows support crews from most anywhere to show up to a situation and understand how to add their resources to the life-saving effort at hand.
For all that the guide does say, there’s no specific guide for how close you get or how fast.
Fulcher says that’s left to the wisdom of battalion chiefs and other on-site leaders.
“You don’t know what you’re dealing with. There’s more of a common sense protocol. Don’t go beyond what you can see,” said Fulcher.
Imagine how hard that is to discern when the known has been shredded, burnt or exploded into the unknown.
Fulcher also says at that point, department training is key in mastering oneself as much as the situation.
“Moth to the flame. Everybody starts out, ‘Oh my God, there’s fire. I want to run right to it.’ You train and condition yourself to step back and assess because as you probably know you cannot evaluate the picture if you’re in the frame,” said Fulcher.
Fulcher says what may have happened in San Francisco is very unfortunate and part of the delicate life and death balance crews face every day while trying to do the most good.
“You risk a lot to save a lot,” he said.