Managing Risk in a Risk Laden Business

One of the most important aspects of my job (and of all of our command personnel both police and fire) is to manage risk. We have to look down the road at the risks we are likely to contend with,  evaluate the potential for things to go wrong and then work to reduce or eliminate those risks to the best of our abilities.

For both disciplines, our tools are critical to our success.  The tools are expensive and must be carefully accounted for and maintained.  In the Fire Division, hoses are critical.  The “wet stuff on the red stuff” is delivered by those very large hoses.  Over time the hoses can deteriorate so they  must be regularly evaluated and made ready for service.  Many years ago, I worked for a community where a firefighter was permanently disabled by a hose malfunction.  A hose separated at the coupling and at those high water pressures the hose spun around like a snake.  The fire fighter was injured when he was struck by the hose in the knee.  He was never able to work as a fire fighter again even after multiple surgeries to attempt to repair the knee.  (This was in the days before knee replacements became so effective and commonplace).

So in the interests of managing risk, we test our hose to make sure we are ready to respond and so that our personnel can count on our equipment to be safe.  We also have to balance the costs against the expected benefit.

Fire personnel engaged in hose testing.
Fire personnel engaged in hose testing.

On Wednesday more than 19,000 feet of fire hose went through annual pressure testing. All large diameter hose, 4″, is tested to 250 psi for 5 minutes. All 1 ¾” and 2 ½” hose is tested to 300 psi for 5 minutes. A combined total of 1,150 of hose failed the testing process. The failures include separation between the hose line and couplings, holes in the hose jacket and seeping hose.Some of the hose is under warranty which will be sent out for repairs. The other hose will be replaced.The hose testing standard is set by the NFPA 1962 guidelinewhich was updated this year. The testing is critical in our operations to avoid a malfunction during fire operations which could have a catastrophic effect if personnel suddenly lost their water supply while operating inside of a building.  This year all fire departments within the MABAS 3201 agreed to bid out the testing process as one entity. This allowed us to get a group discount. In years past, fire personnel would schedule several different days over a period of months to complete the hose test process. This is a labor intensive operation as all hose must be unloaded from all apparatus, tested and then reloaded. The contracted company was able to rotate all apparatus through and test all of our hose within one day.

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I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.