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March 26, 2007

Punish Him! Punish Him!

He broke the regulations!

A fireman is facing disciplinary action after plunging into a river to rescue a drowning woman.

Tam Brown, 42, is the subject of an internal investigation by Tayside Fire and Rescue because he breached safety rules during the rescue in the River Tay in Perth.

...

Mr Brown, who has 15 years’ experience as a fireman, was hailed as a hero by the young woman’s family but Tayside Fire and Rescue said that he had broken the brigade’s “standing instructions” on safety procedures.

...

Mr Brown said: “We had seconds to act. The girl was losing consciousness. We had one harness, so I put that on and went down 20ft on a safety line, grabbed her and held her out of the water. My colleagues tried to pull us towards steps, but the current was so bad and the rope was pulled so hard it snapped.

“My own life hung in the balance as I swam for the steps with her in my arms. But we got there and were pulled out. I was in the water for eight minutes and it was heart-stoppingly cold, but we saved her.”

...

The brigade’s rules state: “Personnel should not enter the water.” The fire crew should instead have tried to haul the woman out using poles and ropes.

Stephen Hunter, chief fire officer of Tayside Fire and Rescue, admitted that fire engines in Perth were not equipped with the correct poles and ropes, but insisted that Mr Brown had broken the rules.

He said: “Firefighter safety is of paramount importance to us. Although our duties include rescues from flooding, there is no statutory obligation to carry out rescues from moving water.

There was a time when we gave medals, signs of our social approval, of those who risked their lives to save others. Now, we discipline them because they breach the regulations. Note that "no statutory obligation". Weasel words, vile.

Anyone know where I can purchase a job lot of tumbrils?

March 26, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink

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Comments

When the chief fire officer cares more about the risk of being sued by an employee over a breach of H&S than a member of the public coming to harm due to inaction by those employees, it's time for him to go & find another career...

Posted by: JuliaM | Mar 26, 2007 10:21:25 AM

One has to wonder if the Fire Chief is capable of providing appropriate leadership to his officers. I would suggest not. In addition, he certainly does not appear to understand his responsibilities vis-a-vis the public.

Posted by: Peter Turner | Mar 26, 2007 10:42:14 AM

We're terribly sorry about the death of your loved one, and I can assure you my men are all deeply traumatised at having to stand by and watch it happen, I shouldn't wonder if the entire crew isn't on stress leave for the next couple of years. Anyhow, as I was saying, we're terribly sorry but we are under no statutory obligation to carry out rescues from moving water, as this helpful leaflet will explain to you. Now had your loved one had the presence of mind to fall into static water we'd have been only too happy to help. Is there anything else I can help you with, inspect your home for fire safety, develop an escape plan? If there's anything we can do, just ask, we're here to help after all.

Pall bearers at the funeral? Ah, well, heavy lifting and we're under no statutory obligation to carry coffins, plus there's the chance of further traumatisation. Why don't I just give you this non-toxic fridge magnet, it's got our number on it so you'll always know what number to call if you need us?

Posted by: DocBud | Mar 26, 2007 11:20:01 AM

"it's time for him to go & find another career..."

On the contrary, he's in the perfect career. A total focus on his Gosplan targets to the exclusion of the (former) purpose of his organization.

Posted by: Kay Tie | Mar 26, 2007 11:22:08 AM

The final line of the quotation is chilling.

This is what happens in the Parking Warden state.

Posted by: Johnathan | Mar 26, 2007 12:08:46 PM

"Firefighter safety is of paramount importance to us": bollocks. If that were true they'd never venture forth from the fire station. We all are insulted by such stupid lies.

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 26, 2007 12:46:07 PM

While I agree that Mr Hunter is clearly a disgrace, I wonder if his concern about statutory responsibilities may be inspired by the Brigade's insurance cover in case Mr Brown had been injured or even killed in the course of his heroic rescue.

I mean, if the insurance policy covers only death or injuries sustained during the course of the fireman carrying out his lawful duties and someone's advised the brigade that this may be construed as duties imposed by statutory obligation, then presumably he's worried the insurers might refuse to settle claim. Then we get into very nasty territory about who, if anyone, should pay the fireman's grieving family the death benefits to which they thought they were entitled.

I don't know if the policy could thus be construed (presumably we'd have to have someone who knows about such things look at the precise wording) but, in my experience, it's usually insurance companies, who obviously don't want to give away the shareholder's money unlawfully, and public bodies who're trying to be prudent with public money by purchasing the least expensive (and, therefore, usually the most restrictive) cover who're behind this sort of 'health and safety nonsense' story.

Posted by: Not Saussure | Mar 26, 2007 3:04:10 PM

My father was a fireman and retired from that profession. I can still remember how he smelled when he came home, especially after a very bad day "at the office". I remember hearing him cry because another human being could not be saved. It didn't matter how old, what color, race etc. My father's job was to save lives and he did. He even did it off duty and received many awards. What is wrong with society that another human being could be disciplined for saving anothers life? I don't care what the rules are. It is everyones job, duty, responsibility to do the right thing if a situation is presented. Too many people find it too convenient to look the other way. One day each and every one of us will need someone to "look our way" and help. This article is pure b.s. and Stephen Hunter is a coward. He should be standing up for his "brother" instead of being a pussy.

Posted by: ISABEAU | Mar 26, 2007 10:51:43 PM

This firefighter was extremely lucky. The article we read could have been about how a firefighter went in after a woman, they drowned, his friends went in to try to help him and they all drowned as well. I occationally read articles about how more than one member of a family has died because they all went in one after another to try to help. As an ex-lifeguard and EMT, our training tells us first and foremost NOT to endanger ourselves. Adding ourselves to the list of those who need to be rescued doesn't make any situation better. If this story had taken that tragic turn, we all would have been complaining about the stupidity of those who don't follow their training.

Posted by: JBF | Mar 27, 2007 12:55:20 AM

"If this story had taken that tragic turn, we all would have been complaining about the stupidity of those who don't follow their training." I think not. I've seen plenty of stories like this one and never once thought that in my entire life. The only thought that has crossed my mind when seeing situations such as that is, "That's exactly what I would have done." I don't know about the rest of everyone else, but I'd rather die early then live on knowing I just stood by and watched others die.

Posted by: DBZ | Mar 27, 2007 4:39:35 AM

""If this story had taken that tragic turn, we all would have been complaining about the stupidity of those who don't follow their training."

I think not. I've seen plenty of stories like this one and never once thought that in my entire life. "

Me neither. What human being would...?

Posted by: JuliaM | Mar 27, 2007 8:07:31 AM

> As an ex-lifeguard and EMT, our training tells us first and foremost NOT to endanger ourselves.

As pointed out earlier, if this were true, you'd be no use whatsoever. If firemen's training was first and foremost not to endanger themselves, they'd never go into burning buildings; if lifeguards' training was first and foremost not to endanger themselves, they'd never try to swim through choppy water while carrying a half-drowned man.

Posted by: Squander Two | Mar 27, 2007 1:00:39 PM

My real problem here is this:

"Stephen Hunter, chief fire officer of Tayside Fire and Rescue, admitted that fire engines in Perth were not equipped with the correct poles and ropes, but insisted that Mr Brown had broken the rules."

...So this guy's getting disciplined for improvising because the department hadn't provided the right equipment for the job? I'd like Stephen Hunter disciplined for putting his staff in unnecessary danger like this. How is he responsible? because, as Not Saussure eloquently demonstrates, the kind of person who becomes a firefighter is the kind of person who _will not_ walk away from someone in need. So, Isabeau, What was his choice? Stand and watch a death, or improvise with what was to hand? Which would you choose? ...and remember, you have to sleep tonight knowing what you chose.

Posted by: Spanners | Mar 27, 2007 1:45:59 PM

I think most of you are missing the point. "Disciplanary action" is mandatory in a situation like this. At no point did the Chief say anything about being disappointed in the rescuer, or anything of the sort.
The rules are in place, at least in my opinion, for 1 reason. Its beyond the point of rational risk. The Firefighter risked his own life beyond a reasonable point when he dove into the water. Yes, he's a hero, and was victorious, but he just as easily could have been swept away and both would have died.
Consider another situation. A Firefighter charges into an inferno despite the fact that all predictions point to the fact that the building wont last another minute without collapsing. he emerges with a child in his arms moments before the building collapses.
Is he a hero? Yes. Should he disciplined? Yes.
Why? Because he broke protocol and entered a situation where chance of rescue was very slim, and his life was in very real, very imminent danger.
If everyone acted like this we'd have alot less firefighters. Thats why Rules are in place.
No one likes to hear statistics applied to humans lives, but its necessary. If the odds are overwhelmingly negative, the end result will be 2 dead people instead of 1.
I had some trouble phrasing this correctly, Hope it was clear to everyone.

Posted by: You're Missingthepoint | Mar 27, 2007 4:12:03 PM

Spanners is right on the button. If you have seen a FF die or been to a FF funeral you know these "rules" are there to protect. As manchester if they would turn the clock back and prevent one of our own from entering the water. Ask other brigades that have had to break the news to the family. Ask yourself- could you do that bit. In 32 years I have broken lots of rules and by chance got away with it. I have been to too many funerals in the country where my mates have paid the price

Posted by: Heavymaul | Mar 27, 2007 9:26:42 PM

Isn't this what happened to Mr. Incredible?

Posted by: pommygranate | Mar 29, 2007 4:32:09 AM