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Buildings are Disposable

Buildings are disposable. People are not!

This guest editorial contribution is provided by Chief John Buckman III, Director of the Indiana State Fire Training and Certification System. Chief Buckman posted this piece on Facebook and, with his permission, it is being reposted here. The message is short and powerful.

Meet NickSituational Awareness Matters!

Nick wants to talk to you about the safety of first responders and other people in the emergency management fields. His message is simply this: Buildings are disposable but people are not.

Nick understands the job of a firefighters and other people involved in coming to the aid of human beings, involves risk but he also realizes how valuable these people are to their families and in many cases they are also a mommy or daddy to kids like him.

He wants everyone to understand the “Everyone Goes Home” saying is not something cool to say but it is a mindset that requires an adult to make a commitment to “risk nothing to save nothing”.

Remember, buildings are disposable, people are not. Nick, like many other kids, does not want to grow up without grownups in his life to teach him the ropes.

John M. Buckman III, Director
Firefighter Training and Certification System
Explosive Technician Certification
EMS Training and Certification
Search and Rescue Training Center



If you are interested in taking your understanding of situational awareness and high-risk decision making to a higher level, check out the Situational Awareness Matters Online Academy.
CLICK HERE for details, enrollment options and pricing.


Share your comments on this article in the “Leave a Reply” box below. If you want to send me incident pictures, videos or have an idea you’d like me to research and write about, contact me. I really enjoy getting feedback and supportive messages from fellow first responders. It gives me the energy to work harder for you.




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7 thoughts on “Buildings are Disposable”

  1. When are we going to stop talking about how risky our job is and instead do something about it? These are valid points, but they do nothing to bring guys and gals home at the end of the day. Talking about risk and all of its associated topics can be beneficial. We all need to understand where the line is. That being said, each department is going to have their own acceptable level of risk. Hicktown Volunteer Fire Department (I can say that because I have been called a hick and have volunteered for years) will probably not be able to assume the same level of risk as FDNY. That’s just the nature of the beast. Also, Everyone Goes Home is nothing but an empty promise. None of us can promise ourselves or anybody else that we will come home at the end of a shift. While it’s a good goal to aim for, properly preparing ourselves is the only way to move close to that goal. Even the best firefighter, in the best PPE, using the best equipment and tactics is not promised a trip home. Rhetoric will not bring guys home. Safety memos will not bring guys home. Until we embrace the need for repetitive, realistic, and relevant training on a regular (read every shift) basis, we are missing the mark.

    1. Dave,

      I appreciate your passion. Everyone Goes Home is only rhetoric for those who have not embraced the teachings that go along with the words. There are some important initiatives and training programs that are the core of the EGH initiatives. It’s not a matter of just embracing a phrase. I also do not think that adopting a mindset that Everyone Goes Home is a promise that it will happen. But I am hopeful it is a goal that responders embrace. Just like it should be the goal of every soldier to survive in battle but, sadly, some do not.

      The mission of SAMatters is to help first responders see the bad things coming in time to change the outcome. I’d like to think I have offered some tangible solutions to some (certainly not all) the challenges first responders face. I don’t address tactical matters. My focus is very narrow on the topic of SA. Thanks for contributing.


      1. Dr. Gasaway,

        You have made a tremendous contribution to the fire service through the work you have done. Thanks to you we all have (or should have) a much deeper appreciation for situational awareness and how it effects our survival. Although you have chosen to focus on SA I would hardly call it a narrow focus considering it effects almost everything we do. Thanks for all of the work you have done and continue to do for the fire service.

  2. I am reminded of a book by a scientist named Kuhn, that stated that “paradigm shifts” are caused when one set of truths is replaced by a new set of truths. For example, man cannot fly – to yes – we can fly to the current state where we have gone all the way to the moon and back.

    A paradigm shift occurs when the old truth becomes irrelevant and the new truth is identified as being valid. Right now firefighter safety is going through a paradigm shift, but there is no consensus at the level of the fire company as to what that really means. Until everybody believes, it will not be true. Speeches at the national events about adopting this attitude do not translate into personal behaviors on the fire-ground UNLESS EVERYONE believes, not just the advocates. Here’s to the first fire officer to stand up and say at the scene of an emergency ‘ We are not going to do that! and really mean it. Here’ to the first firefighter that says “I am going to do my best to do the right thing, but I am not going to lose my life because of taking an unnecessary risk! Scientists all recognize that the body of knowledge changes over time – and our scientist’s – Madrokowski and Kerber are telling us that the world is changing. EVERYBODY needs to listen to them, not just the folks filling seats at national conventions. Wake up America’s Firefighters – Its a Brave New World…..
    Ronny J Coleman .

    1. Great memory, Chief. The book is “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn. While written in 1962, the book has direct application to what is happening in the fire service today (though I doubt few in the fire service have read it).

      Thanks to science, we are being exposed to new paradigms. I know my own doctoral research on situational awareness and the discovery of 116 barriers that impact SA sure was a huge paradigm shift for me. I am hopeful that sharing those lessons here on SAMatters provides some new enlightenment for those who read and share the articles.

      Thank you for taking time to contribute to the discussion.


  3. What is the number 1 job of the Fire Chief? The answer (from my view) is to have your people leave their shift the same way they arrived, safe. Until we have a serious conversation of our culture and how it relates/impact our safety, we will continue to be dis-heartened. Saying no building is worth the life of a firefighter is much different than “embracing” the concept. Be safe Chief!

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