Do you have the courage? Seat Belt Pledge Form (PDF)
After the article "Leadership: We killed firefighter Brian Hunton" was published last year, I received an email that made the loss and responsibility I felt even deeper.
Jim Juneau serves on an NFPA apparatus technical committee. He met with Mr. and Mrs. Hunton to talk about their son's death. Jim gave Brian's mom and dad a copy of my article to read. With tear filled eyes Brian's dad asked "How many more firefighters have to die before they all wear seat belt?" Mr. Hunton was wearing a National Fire Academy baseball cap, a gift from his son after he attended the NFA "Advanced Safety Operations and Management" course.
When I learned that Brian was a National Fire Academy graduate my heart sank to a new depth of despair. Something more had to be done.
I began telling Brian's story, I asked NFA students to make a pledge to wear their seat belt and to make sure other brother and sister firefighters used their seat belts. Hundreds of NFA students and graduates have taken the seat belt pledge, but sadly not everyone signs.
At the recent Executive Fire Officer Graduate Symposium I ask the attendees to take the seat belt pledge, most did. One chief officer from a metro fire department would not. While I think very highly of that chief and his department, I know their seat belt policy is not enforced. When I ask the chief if he took the pledge he told me, "I have not signed it, I think seat belts will slow us down." That fire department prides itself on being a fast, aggressive, interior firefighting organization. My question to the chief was "Why don't the firefighters wear their seat belts driving back from the fire; why don't they wear them on medical calls, on alarm bells, on stuck elevators?" He had no answer.
Asking that chief officer to take the seat belt pledge was an attack on his core values as to what it means to be a firefighter. His conscious would not let him sign something he did not believe; even though, deep down, I hope he knew his belief is wrong. I pray that chief never has to inform a family that their son, daughter, husband, wife, mother or father is dead as a result of falling out of the fire truck because he failed to enforce the seat belt policy.
Now I am asking you and the national fire service to take the seat belt pledge. Do you have the courage to promise to wear your seat belt? Do you have the courage to make others use their seat belt? Do you have the courage to put your leadership on the line when it comes to seat belts?
The focus of this year's Fire Service Safety Stand-Down Day on June 21 is on using seat belts and stopping at intersections. How many of the 1.2 million firefighters will take the seat belt pledge? How many fire chiefs will take the pledge? How many of the ~32,000 fire departments will have 100% seat belt pledge commitment?
In July 2006 I will present copies of the seat belt pledge signatures to Brian's mom and dad. This gesture will say the nations' fire service remembers your son; he did not die in vain. We promise to wear seat belts in his honor because it is the right thing to do.
The seat belt pledge is attached. Print it out make as many copies as you need. Fax the pledges to Seat Belt Pledge at 1-866-638-3842 if you are in the Eastern or Pacific Time zone, 817-295-3145 if in the Central Time zone, 817-297-0232 if in the Mountain Time zone. We expect a large responses so if the line is busy please try again. Keep the originals for your records and post them on the fire station wall to remind each other of your pledge to use seat belts.
The National Fire Service Seat Belt Pledge to remember firefighter Brian Hunton is a promise we can all live with. From now on - NO firefighter will die because they were not wearing their seat belt. Brothers and sisters we can do this. We owe it to our families and each other.