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What is Murphy’s Law?

EMA Emergency Management, EMS Emergency Medical Services, FD Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, badges article logo label

Most who read this will probably have some general idea of what Murphy’s Law is. The best way to sum up Murphy’s Law is to say that “whatever can go wrong, will.” That’s if you want to restrain his laws to a summary. My experience as a Soldier brought me into contact with Mr. Murphy’s laws of combat (1) on a daily basis. There are actually well over one hundred of them, but let me share a few of my favorites.

   •   Friendly fire - isn't, recoilless rifles - aren't, and suppressive fires - won't.
   •   If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid.
   •   There is no such thing as a perfect plan, and no plan ever survives initial contact.
   •   Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support.
   •   Anything you do can get you killed, including nothing.
   •   Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
   •   If at first you don't succeed, then bomb disposal probably isn't for you.
   •   If you enter the commander’s presence with an idea, you will leave his presence with the commander’s idea.

There are several interesting websites that tell the story of Murphy and how his law came about. The Murphy’s Law website tells us that Murphy’s Law originated at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949. It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, a project designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash. After riding the sled that produced the sudden deceleration, an Air Force (Dr. John Paul Stapp) gave a press conference. He said that their good safety record on the project was due to a firm belief in Murphy's Law and in the necessity to try and circumvent it.

On the same site, Joe Smith says there is more to the story of this law. He says, “While I admit that the name of Murphy's laws is a pleasant one as is the story of how it came to light, but the original name for 'if anything can go wrong it will' was sod's law because it would happen to any poor sod who needed such a catastrophic event the least.” Chris Monkman adds to the story and provides a possible answer to how Murphy’s name replaced sod. “In the late 1960's I read an article that was photocopied from a magazine where I saw the term ‘Murphy's Law’ coined. Should I say, I believe the term was coined in this article. It had a photo of a bearded man in the upper right corner. The article began simply by describing all the things that had gone wrong in Murphy's life. Near the end of the first section of the article it described the formalization of Murphy's Law, as Murphy was waiting for the pending birth of his first child.” Our thanks to these two gentlemen. Here are a few of Murphy’s Laws listed on this site:

   •   If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
   •   If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop
   •   Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse
   •   If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something
   •   Nature always sides with the hidden flaw

There are also several other sets of Murphy’s Laws directly applicable to responders. There isn’t enough space here to list them all, but we will list a few:

Murphy's Volunteer Bushfire Brigade Laws:
   •   Don't look conspicuous. When you’re dealing with the public it draws stupid questions.
   •   Falling trees have the right of way
   •   If orders can be misunderstood, they have been
   •   CHAOS = Chiefs Have Arrived on Scene
   •   NFPA = Not For Practical Application
   •   If you forget to bring gas with you, your saw will run out as soon as you make the roof
   •   Once your saw dies you realize you and your partner failed to bring an axe
   •   Your rope may be rated to 9,000 pounds, your hardware to 12,000, but your back will fail at 3 times your body weight.

There are a lot more of these for the fire service. Check them out by clicking here:

Murphy's Cops Laws:
   •   Bullet Proof vests aren't.
   •   The bigger they are, the harder they fall. They punch, kick and choke harder too.
   •   High speed chases will always proceed from an area of light traffic to an area of extremely heavy traffic.
   •   If you have `cleared' all the rooms and met no resistance, you and your entry team have probably kicked in the door of the wrong house.
   •   Any suspect with a rifle is a better shot than any cop with a pistol.
   •   On any call, there will always be more `bad guys' than there are good guys, and the farther away your back-up, the more there will be.
   •   Always be sure to give the guy who complains about paying your salary his nickel back before you write his ticket; It will leave him with a better impression of your services.
   •   “Two beers, officer" is always two more than they should have had.

Murphy's EMT Laws:
   •   Air goes in and out, blood goes round and round, any variation on this is bad
   •   You may not install a "car catcher" on the front of the ambulance.
   •   The more equipment you see on a EMT's belt, the newer they are.
   •   All bleeding stops... eventually.
   •   You can't cure stupid.
   •   Every emergency has three phases: PANIC... FEAR... REMORSE.
   •   Automatically multiply by 3 the number of drinks they claim to have had.
   •   Get very, very scared when a child is too quiet.

This piece was intended to be fun and hopefully made you laugh. There is a lot of uncertainty out there and there is no way to prevent Murphy from striking. One thing is for certain though and that is that complacency is Murphy’s Best Friend. Stay vigilant, stay safe, and stay At the Ready!


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