It is clear I think to all of us, that this year’s summer, the effects of the climate change and how these contributed to the exacerbation of devastating extreme phenomena have been experienced like never before.
One of the main reasons that contributed to this is the impact upon us of the aftermath of the devastating inferno that took place in late July in Greece and left behind more than 80 dead.
Greece, Sweden, USA, UK, Siberia, Japan one record-setting after another. It should be noted, that during the writing of this article the wildfire Mendocino Complex Fire has already converted into ashes an area of 1150km2 which is equivalent to the size of Los Angeles and is the largest ever recorded wildfire in the state of California. Last week the Carr Fire self-developed a 5km2 firenado, which even experts on the field studying these phenomena find it difficult to explain. In July, Sweden also suffered from the worst wildfires of its modern history. Climate change, however, is not causing only super wildfires but also destructive floods (see Laos).
It is therefore understandable to everyone and especially to the fire and rescue departments and professionals that the ” rules of the game ” have changed much earlier than we had predicted or we thought it would change. Natural disasters are no longer isolated events and the rules of the game are not set by us, as nature has shown us a small sample of its destructive powers.
How is the response model of Fire and Rescue Service changes;
I am not an expert on climate change, I am just an observer of these phenomena and unfortunately, affirmed by dozens of articles by valid sources and analysts on the field that this year we have seen a glimpse from the future if no immediate action is taken to delay/cease the effects of the climate change.
Unfortunately, however, even if immediate steps are taken, it will take some time for the wheel to start spinning the opposite direction. Thus, the fire brigades and, in general, all emergency services around the world should be prepared as much as possible to deal with these incidents.
But beyond the strategic planning of the various services to deal with these disasters, what we may need to research further is the people who will face these incidents, the first responders, such as the firefighters, the EMS, the police and any other members of relevant emergency services.
And I explain; above I have stated that the emergency services will no longer face mere incidents, but now we will deal with (possibly) extreme phenomena. Super wildfires capable of creating their own micro-climate like fierce winds, destructive firenados, floods during the summertime, etc.
It is therefore clear, that when firefighters are called to deal with incidents of this scale they will not be able to deal with them conventionally or if you like with the practices and means that have been used in the past for incidents of a smaller scale.
Thus, it is necessary to “transform” the firefighter into a super-firefighter. The requirements of this new status quo require the best possible adaptation to this new regime and fast.
This change should be based on four main axes: Physical condition, training, equipment and psychological support.
Physical condition We are all aware that coping with an incident and taking, for example, a forest fire is extremely demanding in terms of physical condition. The demands have multiplied since the firefighting forces are called upon to cope with phenomena which until that day were unknown to them (see USA). It is, therefore, crucial to adapt to the new facts regarding the physical condition of the members of the Fire Service.
As a firefighter myself I have always stated that ‘’you can’t train too much for a job that has the potentials to kill you’’. As with the physical situation, it is necessary to develop educational programs that are realistically designed so as to offer the trainee the “familiarity” about what the demands of the episode might be, and of course, I do not mean to set a mountain on fire for the sake of education, but with the detailed and realistic planning/design of these programs accordingly.
Extreme phenomena demand adequate for the job equipment. Would you attempt to put out a house on fire with a water gun? Again, it is necessary to analyze what are the equipment needs in terms of staff protection and firefighting. These phenomena don’t allow any space for cuts. The relevant government departments should carefully consider that potential equipment cuts or buying the ok to do the work stuff vs the best tools for the job may put their staff under unnecessary risk.
Response too and subsequent management of such incidents may have potential psychological effects on the firefighters, and the need for ongoing psychological evaluation and support where needed Is deemed essential.
I have listed some of my thoughts extracted through a 13-year experience at the Fire and Rescue Service as well as through extensive study and observation.
All of the above are personal views of the undersigned – any comments are welcomed.
Thank you for your time reading it.
Avgoustinos Hadjiyiannis GIFireE |MInstLM