In aviation, people are learning lessons from incidents for over a 100 years. Each time there is a serious problem with an airplane, an investigation is started. The airline company and the manufacturer of the plane collaborate in the investigation. Several kinds of experts are taking part in the research. In the past century the aviation sector has learnt a lot: about technology, about manufacturing and maintenance processes, about human behaviour, ... By doing it this way, flying has become safe. 

There is no such methodology in the Belgian fire service. We learn very little or nothing at all from incidents. In other countries as the US and the Netherlands lots of resources are invested in research into incidents. The goal of such a research project is not to find the one who is "guilty". It is the intention to obtain "lessons learned". The ambition is that the fire services moves forward as an organization. It shouldn't be the case that colleagues die and that the fire service doesn't draw lessons from what happened. However, this is the way things are done in Belgium. If the aviation would cope with safety as the fire service does in Belgium, a large number of planes that takes off would not safely land on the ground. 

Of course, it is not easy to create a change. Nobody likes to tell where it went wrong in his or her organization. Still, this is a challenge for the fire service. The goal is to publish documents on this page from incidents that have been investigated. 

A good book about this topic has been edited by the Swedish fire organization. It is called  "Learning from accidents". It can be ordered from the following website: https://msb.se/en/Products/Publications/Publications-from-the-SRSA/Learning-from-accidents/

Investigations shouldn't be very big. The safety region Haaglanden in The Netherlands had a fire during which there was an explosion. The safety region made an analysis of the incident. Fire service personal of different stations of the region have been working on the investigation. A brochure was published to share the new knowledge. The fact that this happens and the way how it happens are very good. In the fire service accidents will happen. We can't deny that. But we can make sure that we learn from incidents ant that we create a better fire service.  leertafel_haaglanden.pdf

An analysis that was particularly well done is the one about a fire in a factory in 2012 in Harlingen. The report can be found here: harlingen.pdf

 

Dave Birke, a pilot from the US marine corps, wrote a column about learning from incidents. You can find it here.

Deadly incident with Baltimore County FD:

 

Op 19 januari 2011 kwam brandweerman Mark Falkenhan om het leven bij het bestrijden van een brand. Het ongeval werd onderzocht en dit onderzoek resulteerde o.a. in een filmpje waarin de het relaas van de feiten wordt gedaan. Het filmpje kan je hier vinden. 

 

Interessante zaken die aan bod komen tijdens het filmpje zijn de volgende:

- Er wordt een duidelijk situatierapport gegeven bij aankomst dat o.a. het aantal bouwlagen van het gebouw omvat.

- Er wordt ingezet op redding in plaats van op blussing. Hoewel dit een menselijke reactie is, kan de brand hierdoor groeien. Een belangrijke nuance is dat bewoners bij ons relatief veilig zijn in de bovenliggende appartementen omwille van de betonnen vloeren die standaard zijn. In de VS is dit meestal anders.

- De mogelijkheden van door control komen in dit onderzoek duidelijk naar boven. Op het moment dat brandweerlui een appartement boven de brand doorzoeken, dient de inkom deur gesloten te worden. Op die manier wordt het appartement geïsoleerd van de stroming van de brand. Zelf het sluiten van een schilderdeur in het appartement kan de stroming stoppen.

- Een brand van de buitengevel kan naar binnenslaan op een hogere verdieping. Dergelijke problemen zijn ook bij ons te verwachten. Het valt immers steeds meer voor dat men brandbare isolatie afdekt met crepi. Dan is zo'n scenario niet ondenkbaar.

 

 

 

Research into Line of duty deaths in the US:

 

The United States are a very big country. There live millions of people and there is a lot of activity. This means that there are also a lot of fires. As in Belgium, something goes wrong from time to time. Sometimes things go awfully wrong. On average, every year about 100 firefighters die during their work in the US. In contrast to Belgium, every accident is evaluated thoroughly. NIOSH, the national institute for occupational safety and health, performs an in-depth evaluation of each line-of-duty-death and writes recommendations. Studying these cases is very interesting. The recommendations can often be copy-pasted into the Belgian context. The website of the "Firefighter fatality program" contains a search engine to search LODD's within several categories. You can find the website here.

 

NIOSH composed a document with recommendations for fighting fires in abandonned structures. In the document several cases are discussed: fighting fires in unoccupied buildings

 

NIST is another American governmental organisation. It has studied lots of fires in the past. An infamous fire is the one in Keokuk, Iowa which claimed the lives of 3 firefighters. NIST has made a short movie about this fire.

 

 

Lessons from Belgium:

 

August 30th 2008, two Brussels firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice at a fire in Ukkel. An article about this fire was published but there is also a movie available that discusses this unfortunate incident.

 

January 28th, 2014 the Saint-Hubert Fire Department was confronted with a house fire in Moircy. Emmanuel Belaire of the Liège Fire Department wrote a report (in French) about this fire. 

December 6h, 2014 a fire started in the FN factory at Herstal, which produces weapons. Lots of resources were necessary to handle this fire. The report  about this fire is only available in French.

June 17th, 2015 a fire broke out in an abandonned building in Liege. Because of the size of the incident, a report was written. 

August 12th, 2015 the Liege fire department had to fight a fire in the Bank street (rue de la banque) in Seraing. Both an article and a report were published. However they are only available in French.

November 23rd 2015, a firefighter got hurt while battling a fire in Fléron. The Liège fire department published a report about this incident.

August 28th 2016, a firefighter got hurt while battling a fire in Charleroi. The Liège fire department made an analysis of this incident.

November 27th 2016, the Liege fire department had to fight a fire in an underground parking in Liege. A report was published. However it is only available in French. 

April 15th, 2017, a fire started in the Brussels North-South Junction. This is the most important train tunnel in Belgium.  The chronology of this fire is described in the report about this fire (which is only available in Dutch or French for the moment). There is also a section about the lessons learned.

October 21st 2017, Antwerp fire department fights a residential fire on the 3rd floor of an apartment block. The company officer made an excellent analysis of the incident using helm camera footage and thermal images.

 

Lessons from Sweden:

 

Lithium-Ion batteries are getting more common. During a fire, they pose a serieus threat for firefighters. PerOla Malmquist from Sweden wrote a safety message with his concerns regarding these batteries.