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Near-Miss Reporting: 5,000 Reports and Counting

Near-Miss report #12-217 describes a routine operation of backing an apparatus into the bay and potentially trapping two members between a wall and the truck. The report was submitted by the safety officer who was involved in the event. In the report's Lessons Learned section, the safety officer reports, "We need to report all near misses and accidents in a timely manner."

This safety officer understood the value of leading by example by submitting this report to the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System. What this safety officer didn't know was that this report would be the 5,000th report to Near-Miss.

Since the national launch of the Near-Miss Program in August 2005, firefighters/EMTs have embraced the concepts of near-miss reporting and the importance of sharing information on the virtual firehouse kitchen table, FireFighterNearMiss.com.

A third-party assessment was conducted in conjunction with the program's seventh anniversary. Its purpose was to measure the program's effectiveness in its mission to provide data and case studies to help reduce firefighter/EMT injuries and fatalities by collecting and analyzing near-miss reports.

An online questionnaire was used to gather data on two key components: general awareness and information dissemination. According to the findings:

  • 73% of respondents reported that reading near-miss reports influenced their approach or performance
  • 36% of respondents reported that their departments used near-miss reports to change written procedures
  • 35% of respondents reported that near-miss reports were incorporated into their departments' training activities

At the individual and department levels, the Near-Miss Program is contributing to the change in the safety culture of today's fire and emergency service. A respondent to the questionnaire stated, "Reviewing near-miss reports provides me with additional experiences to draw upon during my incident scene evaluation and decision-making process."

Another respondent said, "Near-miss reports have changed our way of thinking and operating, realizing that a near miss can occur at any time."

Several recurring types of near-miss events were mentioned to illustrate the operational influence of near-miss reports, including the increased use of wheel chocks, modified written procedures on air-quality monitoring and SCBA use during salvage, increased training on vertical ventilation procedures and revised highway-response procedures.

Convert Experiences to Lessons

There are three actions you, as a leader in your department, can take today to help turn 5,000 real-world experiences into learning opportunities for you and your members:

  • Issue a written guideline or procedure encouraging use of near-miss reports for training purposes. There are several examples of these on the Resources page under "Sample Policies and Training Tools."
  • Submit a near-miss report based on an event from your career. Remember, there's no statute of limitations on reports and some of the best near-miss reports are events that went right because of the use of standard operating procedures or guidelines. Once the report has been posted, share it with your department members to illustrate your support of sharing knowledge.
  • Assign your training or safety officer to receive the Report of the Week and have him or her circulate it with comments each week.

Five thousand reports is a remarkable milestone because it indicates the trust that firefighters/EMTs have in the Near-Miss Program. These individuals shared their experiences to help their sisters and brothers. It's now our collective responsibility to ensure that yesterday's lessons learned are leveraged tomorrow.

Amy Tippett is the IAFC's project manager for the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System.

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