¶ … employed by firefighters. Over the course of this report, there will be a definition of what the "two in, two out" procedure is, why it is important and so forth. Further, there will be a summary of interviews with at least two different firefighters of sufficient rank and experience that are thus qualified to speak to whether there is compliance with the "two in, two out" rule within their departments. Beyond that, the author of this report will offer a personal perspective about the practice within fire departments as well as exterior sources that review and analyze the topic as well. While many rules and procedures may seem pointless and silly to some, anything that pertains to safety in a hazardous job should not be taken lightly and the "two in, two out" procedure is certainly emblematic of this fact.
Two In, Two Out Defined
As explained by the Utah Valley University website, the "two in, two out" standard was developed and refined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The standard "two in, two out" protocol is basically as follows. The regulation, as currently authored, not requires that when there is a team of firefighters inside a structure that is engulfed in flames, there must be at least two team members inside. Those two team members must have "direct visual or voice contact" between each other and voice or radio contact with firefighters outside of that same structure. The International Association of Firefighters as well as the International Association of Fire Chiefs offered a frequently asked questions list for those that were curious about the law (UVU, 2015).
Part of the standards relating to the "two in, two out" protocol have been in place for a while. Indeed, it has been since 1971 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration required that there be a respiratory protection standard. This standard requires employees to establish and instill a respiratory protection plan for their respirator-wearing employees. Firefighters would certainly be included in that grouping. The 1971 update strengthened some requirements but also loosed them in some ways as there was some "duplicative" facets to the prior rules. In any event, the revised standard "specifically addresses the use of respirators in immediately dangerous to life or health atmospheres," often shortened to IDLH. OSHA defines structures that are involved with any sort of fire beyond the "incipient" stage as being IDLH atmospheres by default. As such, OSHA requires that personnel in those areas be using self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) devices. Where the "two in, two out" comes in that when there are two firefighters inside a structure actively fighting a fire, there should always be two more firefighters immediately outside of the structure that are able to provide assistance or perform rescue as needed (UVU, 2015).
The UVU summary of the law notes that there is no doubt that the standard is "important" to firefighters. As noted in the second question in the "frequently asked questions" offering, "this standard, with its two-in/two-out provision, may be one of the most important safety advances for firefighters in this decade." They then note that "too many" firefighters have died because of a staggering amount of insufficient accountability and/or poor communications between firefighters. OSHA asserts that the "two in, two out" standard address both the communication problem and the overall accountability problem at the same time. In the words of the UVU treatise, "the standard addresses both and leaves no doubt that two-in/two-out requirements must be followed for firefighter safety and compliance with the law (UVU, 2015).
As for who the standard applies to, the UVU page states that "the federal OSHA standard applies to all private sector workers engaged in fire fighting activities through industrial fire brigades, private incorporated fire companies (including the "employees" of incorporated volunteer companies and private fire departments contracting to public jurisdictions) and federal fire fighters. In a total of twenty-three states and two territories, the state (not the federal government...
To be able to do that, the states must establish and maintain the proper occupational safety and health programs for all public employees and those rules must be effective as those for private employees. It is also noted that federal OSHA has "no direct enforcement authority over state and local governments in states that do not have state OSHA plans." (UVU, 2015).
Regarding the states that have approved "two in, two out" protocols and thus will be enforced accordingly, those states/territories are Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Virgin Islands, Washington (state) and Wyoming. There are some states that have taken the intermediate step of adopting the OSHA "two in, two out" regulations for public employee firefighters. Those states include Florida, Illinois and Oklahoma. In such states, the regulations in question follow the force of law and must be complied with based on that fact alone (UVU, 2015).
There is another set of standards that exists out there and they are know as the NFPA standards, which is short for National Fire Protection Association. They published a set of standards in 1997 known as the NFPA 1500. A number of states have taken up those regulations as well. The 1997 document in many ways mirrors the OSHA respiratory standards. However, it should be noted that the NFPA is a "private consensus standards organization" and its recommendations are always superseded by those of OSHA when the OSHA standard is more stringent than the NFPA version of the same subject. Regardless of the standard or group of standards that are followed, it is the opinion of many that the "two in, two out" standard should be a bare minimum for all (without exception) fire departments in general and this should hold true for both the United States and Canada. There are obviously some exemptions from the law based on whether the state has a standard. However, the opinion of the standard-setters with both OSHA and the NFPA are fairly clear and unambiguous (UVU, 2015).
There are a few more facets to the "two in, two out" standard that have not yet been mentioned. The sixth question of the UVU listing pertains to whether firefighters acting within an interior structure should be using a buddy system as a matter of hard rule or of it is just a recommendation. The answer as offered in the UVU treatise is clear in saying that a buddy system must be used. They state that "OSHA clearly requires that all workers engage in interior structural fire fighting operations beyond the incipient stage used SCBA and work in teams of two or more. The applicable federal regulation is 29 CFR 1910.134(g)(4)(i). Further, while radio contact alone is acceptable when it comes to the two people inside the structure and the two people outside the structure, the same is not true of the two people inside by themselves. Those two people may very well have radio contact with one another. However, they must always be together and in line of sight of one another. OSHA has this rule, as stated by UVU, because radios and other similar systems do not always work. As stated by UVU, "due to the potential of mechanical failure or reception failure of electronic communications devices, radio contact is not acceptable to replace visual or voice contact between the members of the 'buddy system' team." (UVU, 2015).
Something else that is not explicitly stated above but that should be inferred by a little simple math is the fact that there must be four firefighters present for a team of two to be able to go into a structure in the first place. Obviously, if there are not four firefighters present, there are not enough people to properly follow the "two in, two out" standard. One interesting question that arises is if there are multiple teams inside the structure and whether that means there has to be a full four-person team for each pair inside. For example, if there are a pair of two-person teams inside, it is actually not automatically required to have four more people (two for each pair inside) on the outside. A single pair that is ready for rescue and assistance would generally be enough. However, if the structure if of a large size and/or the situation escalates quickly, there could be cause to have more than one rescue team on the outside even if the regulations do not generally require it at the state or federal level. Indeed, "too many" people is not really something that is said often when it comes for readiness and preparedness on a fire scene that involves a structure and, thus, any potential loss of life to civilians or firefighters. However, something that cannot be toyed with is the function of the people that are on-site. Just…
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