National Wildfire Coordinating Group

2014 WOR Day 6: Who's Really in Charge of My Safety?

Ribbon symbol for WOR next to Wildland Fire Lessons Learned logo.Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6, 2014

“I recently attended a “Safety Summit” to help develop a Strategic Safety Plan.  The question was asked, “Who’s responsible for safety?”  Management? Leadership? Supervisors?

To answer this question, I reflected on an “awakening” moment for me and felt a shot of adrenaline surge through me and couldn’t be still.  Typically I’m quiet in meetings, but this topic touched my soul and I couldn’t hold back.

I reflected on my basic fire school training where I was taught to work hard, keep my head down, and dig…I was very young, up for the task, and “all in.”  Exciting stuff!

My first fire was a hike in, lightning struck Ponderosa Pine snag high on a ridge.  We made the climb, and I did as instructed; head down, dig and work hard.  My squad boss was “looking out for me” as I mopped under this huge snag and I stirred and mixed the embers.

I had an uncomfortable feeling inside but was determined to prove myself as a firefighter.  I didn’t like being under a big snag on fire, but went with my training and watched my squad boss.  Suddenly, an overwhelming force launched me off my feet and I dove downhill.  The top of the snag had fallen and miraculously missed me by inches.  I broke two fingers in the dive but am very grateful to be alive!

So, the lesson I learned through this experience, and to answer the original question, is that I am absolutely in charge of my own safety.  Keeping myself alive is something I cannot delegate to someone else.  I must listen to that “feeling” and react.  We work as a team and take care of each other, but definitely speak up if something doesn’t feel right.

YOU are ultimately in charge of your safety.”

Written by Tim Blake​
NWCG Preparedness Branch Coordinator

Discussion Questions:

  • There will be situations where you lack experience and must rely on someone with more experience.  What's the balance between self-reliance and deference to expertise?
  • As a leader, how do you encourage your people to think for themselves yet work as team?

Note: Your IRPG contains tools, guidelines and information to evaluate and mitigate risk, and if conditions warrant, how to properly refuse risk. Page 19-20.


Week of Remembrance
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Jun 2023

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