NFFF to Be New Home of National Seat Belt Pledge

SAN DIEGO, Calif. --

For years, the USFA has not only touted the importance of buckling up, but encouraged responders to take the National Seat Belt Pledge.

On Monday at Firehouse World in San Diego, it was announced that the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation will oversee the program.

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NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki said he sees it as a perfect fit.

"We'll be able to increase the marketing of the program, and there will be more opportunities online," Siarnicki said in a telephone interview.

The program -- Buckle Up! So Everyone Goes Home -- coincides with a number of the 16 Life Safety Initiatives that call for enhanced safety practices.

"Injuries from crashes are the second leading cause of responder deaths. We need to do something to curtail this," he said.

Siarnicki said he and his staff eagerly accepted the USFA's request to accept the program. "We've made banners and stickers available to remind people to buckle up."

Dr. Burt Clark started the pledge campaign in 2006 after a National Fire Academy student, Brian Hutton, was killed in a fire truck crash in Texas.

In 2007, Clark, an outspoken advocate for buckling up, refused to accept an award from the NFFF for his commitment to the cause.

Instead, he read off the names of eight firefighters killed in the line-of-duty because they weren't wearing seat belts.

"I can't take this award. None of us can take this award," he said emotionally as he gave the award back to Billy Goldfeder, telling him to keep it until the U.S. fire service goes one year without a firefighter fatality that could have been spared by buckling up.

Clark, a NFA instructor, will continue working with the program as a liaison and advisor, Siarnicki said.

In addition to the USFA and NFPA , the logos of all major fire service organizations -- except for the IAFF -- are displayed on the seat belt pledge materials.

Last summer, however, firefighters with Northwest Fire/Rescue District in Arizona -- members of IAFF Local 3572 -- broke tradition and signed the pledge.

Siarnicki said it's essential that all responders always buckle up. "We hear excuses all the time why they can't wear their seat belts. We have to get people to understand they save lives."

NIOSH investigators -- who probe line-of-duty incidents -- have been promoting the use of seat belts by responders for several years.

Putting the effort in the EGH program, Siarnicki says, will also make it easier for people to access the documents and related materials.

Promoting the use of seat belts will continue to be advocated by EGH instructors as they address firefighters across the country.

Nearly 200,000 responders have signed the seat belt pledge. Departments with 100 percent compliance have been issued certificates.

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