We pride ourselves on the slogan "We Will Never Forget" but our behavior speaks louder then our words.
Do you remember any of the brothers and sisters in the photo to the right?
They all died because we did not make them put their seat belt on. "History repeats it's self" according to Chief Billy Goldfeder of the The Secret List: "
Detroit Firefighters Ejected - Again...Close Call
As you should remember, on 2-7-07, Detroit Fire Engineer Joseph Torkos of Engine Company 17 was tragically killed in the Line of Duty after he was ejected from the apparatus following it being struck by a speeding SUV.
And now this morning, 1 Detroit Firefighter needed stitches in his head and another has a broken arm after their rig flipped while on their way to a fire this morning. 2 other firefighters were not seriously hurt when the truck skidded and rolled onto its roof at 0715 hours this morning. Witnesses said they saw all 4 Firefighters thrown from the apparatus, although the rigs are equipped with seatbelts. One Firefighter was nearly crushed, a witness said."
Every safety rule and every piece of safety equipment was paid for in blood by firefighters who came before us. When we do not use the equipment and follow the rules we are disrespecting our dead and injured brothers and sisters.
But we can change at the individual, company, and department level. There are 58,700 fire service leaders who are making a big difference by taking the National Fire Service Seat Belt Pledge, buckling up, and not moving the apparatus until all on board "click it."
Lt. Lauren Brown of the Dallas Fire Department, is one of them. This is her story in her own words:
May 14, 2008
Dear Dr. Burton Clark:
Here is my "Seat Belt" story. In short, it is a brief account of how I came to realize that I was not doing my job as an officer or as a firefighter.
I'm not sure which of the following events actually happened first, but they both were within the first two days of my Interpersonal Dynamics class. One morning, you stopped by to introduce yourself and to raise awareness about the Brian Hunton National Fire Service Seat Belt Pledge. At about the same time, Fire Chief Tom Taylor from the Moses Lake Fire Department in Washington asked those of us in class to sign the Pledge.
There are a lot of "firsts" in this story...This was my first time to attend the NFA, the first time I had heard about Brian Hunton (even though he was a fellow Texas firefighter) and the first time I had heard about the Pledge. And finally, I signed the Pledge without giving it the first thought as to how it would impact my station life and my duties as a fire officer.
My first two weeks at the Academy were filled with sleepless nights as I lay awake wondering how I was going to make this change for myself, my crew, and my department. I took the opportunity to reflect on the many inconsistencies in my life that were related to what should have been such a simple, and automatic, action.
I had to admit that I had overlooked our department's policy, and state law, for my entire career as a firefighter and an officer. I wore my belt in my personal life, and not in my professional one. In fact, when I was growing up, my parents would fine me a dollar for every time I did not buckle up. At work, I wore it religiously when I was on the ambulance, but once I slid my gear across the apparatus room floor to ride the engine or the truck, I was never buckled.
After signing the Pledge, I called home one night and told my husband to "get ready" to wear his seat belt once I came home; this was his two-week notice. He quickly came up with a variety of excuses that all boiled down to either 1) its too hard to change old habits or 2) we don't buckle up en route to a structure fire because we are trying to get dressed and provide the fastest response. This is my husband, also a Dallas firefighter, who had just left the station about two years ago when the engine he was riding rolled onto its side. (I remember the undocumented reports from the scene talking about gear moving around the cab like a hamster in its exercise wheel.) The thought that I could not even convince my husband to buckle up was, at once, discouraging and a challenge that I could not let go.