Nine Questions

Having responded to violent incidents many times during my career, and writing about some of them here, I thought I should post the following well researched and presented information. When on the streets, and a potentially violent situation emerges instinct cannot take over, as people in harms way should know. I have no intention of not coming home from my shift. For some stupid reason, my instincts mislead me, often into harms way. That cannot continue to happen, not only for my own sake, but for my crew, and the people who will need us when the scene is secure as well.

My chances of coming home are greatly improved when I put my emotions on hold and engage my brain, and by asking these nine simple questions – some of them redundant, and management level, but at least they slow things down enough to make proper descisions, most of the time – I give myself time to sort things out, and let the incident unfold without escalating things.


For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Bob Shilling @ 443-823-1376



Questions inspired by 2012 Violent Incident Summit with IAFC, CFSI, NFFF, NFPA & NVFC


Emmitsburg, MD – Do you know the nine questions you should ask that could help keep you and your firefighters out of harm’s way in a potentially violent situation? As the tragic events in Webster, NY showed, not every violent incident can be anticipated.  But fire, EMS, and law enforcement experts agree that being prepared can often make a difference.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is joined by the IAFC, CFSI, NFPA, and NVFC in this new effort to get fire chiefs, company officers and firefighters to ask critical questions that will help evaluate a department’s ability to effectively deal with a violent situation. Nine Questions You Should Ask is the work of Chief John Oates of East Hartford, CT, based on the report from a focus group of fire, EMS and law enforcement leaders held last year in Baltimore. That report has identified 14 National Recommendations to identify potential risks and stay safe.  The full report is available here.

Chief Oates has also has written an article summarizing the efforts of these fire service organizations and leaders to develop tools for firefighters as part of Firefighter Life Safety Initiative #12, Violent Incident Response.

Below is a summary of Nine Questions You Should Ask. Detailed information on the questions and resource material, including the final report, are available at

Nine Questions You Should Ask


1. Do you use risk/benefit analysis for every call?


2. Do you have an effective relationship at all levels with the law enforcement agencies in your community?


3. How good is the information you get from your dispatcher?


4. Do you allow members to “first respond” directly to the scene?


5. Does your law enforcement agency use an incident management system?


6. When responding to a potentially violent incident, do you seek out a law enforcement officer when you arrive?


7. Have you told your fire officers/personnel that it is OK to leave the scene if things start to turn bad?


8. Is there a point where you don’t respond or limit your response to violent incidents?


9. Is your uniform easily mistaken for law enforcement?

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