The fire ninja strikes... for the first time
on 03 April, 2013

We are a modern, industrial firefighting brigade. We are highly disciplined, highly trained and uniquely experienced. We call ourselves… FIRE NINJAS!

Yes, there is a little humor at play here, but the more that I began to think about this nickname and the concepts that it refers to, the more that I realized that working as an industrial fire team member really is as unique and exotic as the name implies.

Think about it for a minute.

When an emergency call is received in the municipal world, the firefighters that respond do so in a way that’s distinctly different than firefighters in a manufacturing environment.

In the outside world, we would turn on our lights, crank up our sirens and let the world know that we were on our way to assist. That response is grounded in logic and makes perfect sense in that setting.

The lights raise visibility and the sirens let traffic know that you’re coming. The two work well together to ease the emergency response through the municipal environment. It could even be said that they have reciprocal benefits. Perhaps waking the neighbours in the dead of night and alerting them to the dangers of a nearby structure fire.

But take that same response model and apply it to the industrial setting. For the most part, traffic concerns are not an issue. There may be some delivery traffic or personal vehicles that we would want to warn of our response, but for the most part our biggest intent is to get into the building and quickly to the location of the hazard.

 Does it make sense to go big and loud in a manufacturing setting? Is it necessary to alarm production line workers of an incident in another part of the plant that may have no bearing on their wellbeing or productivity? Is it relevant to evacuate an entire production floor due to an isolated incident in a small corner of a two million square foot facility? Again and again, we’ve found that the answer is No. We evolve new ways of responding. We employ new strategies to achieve the same goals. We become, Fire Ninjas.

The customer is paying us to handle their emergency for them and do it in a manner that is the least disruptive to their bottom line. Absolute ‘minimization of production interruption’ is a mantra that drives every aspect of our mitigation procedures.

Arrive quickly, solve the problem, remove the hazard and withdraw just as quickly.

 As far as production is concerned, nothing happened. The employees on the floor, the support staffs in the offices, all continue with their day unaware of the incident and perfectly content to meet their daily responsibilities and production quotas.

The way of the fire ninja

So, how does one become a fire ninja? As I pointed out originally, this concept started out as a humorous nickname, but over time I’ve been able to develop distinct learning objectives that help our fire team members embrace the concepts that this unique environment demands.

Stealth – We’re not talking about being sneaky here, we’re talking about appearance and perspective. We train our team members to remember that: 'An emergency is an emergency for everyone but them.'

We must be perceived as cool, calm and collected at all times. This is never more relevant than inside a manufacturing facility. It’s a difficult concept to embrace, especially for some of our younger members. The idea that someone is calling for an ‘EMERGENCY RESPONSE’ automatically gets the adrenaline flowing and the blood pumping, but is it good practice to run through the building with your response tools? Running looks like you are not in control of the situation. It draws immediate unwanted attention.

We train our Fire Teams to respond to emergencies with a determined hustle, but not at a full sprint, or even a jog. Walk briskly with a confident smile and you will be perceived as a professional on his way to do his job. Not as an EMERGENCY RESPONDER RESPONDING TO AN EMERGENCY! I’ve even outlined certain tricks of the trade that I employ. Whenever visible, try to maintain a low profile, but if you’re responding to an urgent call and your path takes you through areas that are not as visible, that’s when you make up some time.

Example: Enroute to a ‘man-down’ call, walk briskly through the production line areas of the plant, but when you reach stairwells, or unoccupied hallways, that’s when you can break into a jog to make up a few extra seconds. Learning your response area is critical and a good knowledge of these types of areas will present the illusion of incredible speed. A fire ninja is seen walking briskly across the production floor, then he enters a stairwell and seconds later is seen walking briskly in another part of the plant. Controlled, professional urgency.

  • Operation Florian

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