It is Firefighter Safety Week. The slogan this year is: Protect Yourself: Your Safety, Health and Survival Are Your Responsibility.
In 2008 we lost 10 firefighters to no seat belt; in 2007 we lost 12 to no seat belt. How many will we lose in 2009?
Over 300 firefighters have been killed in the line of duty over the past 30 years due to no seat belt. We are still averaging 10 seat belt LODDs per year. Of all the ways a firefighter can be injure or killed not wearing a seat belt is the most tragic because it is 100 percent preventable.
Over 107,000 firefighters have taken the National Seat Belt Pledge and over 500 fire departments have achieved 100 percent participation. The North Carolina fire service is leading the nation with 159 organizations that have 100 percent.
The objectives of the Seat Belt Pledge campaign are 1,000,000 signature and 30,000 fire departments with 100 percent participation. The goal is one whole year with no LODDs due to no seat belt being used.
When you conduct your safety week activities have all you members read the following two stories. I asked my friends Stan and Richard to write these stories because they may prevent another tragedy.
by Stan Lake
Where were you when...? The major events in history that affect the nation or the world are all easily remembered. We can easily recall where we were and what we were doing. In the fire service, a line of duty death of one of our firefighters can generate those same memories.
If we see it on the evening news, read about in a newspaper or get more details from Billy G's "The Secret List", we can feel a sense of loss for those other departments. We are sorry, but are also glad it didn't happen here to us (to me). And then, it did.
My wife and I went out to lunch on that day in August, 2005. While enjoying a quiet afternoon at a favorite restaurant, I noticed the weather outside had changed from distant clouds to dark skies and intense winds. Clouds of dust and loose debris were swirling down the street past the restaurant. Other customers were remarking about this unseasonable, sudden storm. I silently hoped the wind would be accompanied by rain -- strong winds in August in southern California are not a good thing.
As a Deputy Chief with CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, my cell phone didn't ring often on the weekend. However with this wind event, I wasn't surprised when the call came. It was one of my battalion chiefs. His report was not what I expected. "Chief", he said, "Engine 58 has been in an accident. It sounds bad. There are injuries." I requested more details. The battalion chief said he was en route and would be on scene in a couple of minutes. His next report carried my worst fears. Two firefighters had been ejected from the engine. One of them had ended up under the engine. He was being transported to the nearest hospital with major injuries. I questioned the battalion chief about the firefighter -- who was it and how severe were the injuries. "It's Chris Kanton. We just need the doctor to tell what we already know. He didn't survive."
My emotions were simply numb. I couldn't say anything for a moment. Then the years of experience kicked in, duty called and I went to work. I coordinated with the Chief of the Department and other members of the executive team for the things that must be done. While others would make family notifications, work with law enforcement agencies and initiate our own investigation, I would go to the hospital that was receiving the other injured firefighters.
When I arrived at the hospital emergency room, both firefighters were being examined and treated. I soon learned the firefighter that had not been ejected has only minor contusions and abrasions. The other firefighter -- the operator of the engine -- although conscious and coherent, had suffered unknown, possibly severe head injuries. . The doctors wanted to transport him to another facility better equipped to treat his injuries. I asked if I could see him and was given the OK.