The Princess, the Governor and the Firefighter

View Video: Firefighter Hugh Lee Newell story

What did the princess, the governor, and the firefighter have in common?

They did not wear their seat belts. The princess was known worldwide, but she did not have her seat belt on when the car crashed; she died. The governor did not have his seat belt on when the car crashed; he was severely injured. Since the first National Fire Service Safety Stand Down Day in June 2005, too many firefighters have been killed and injured in department apparatus because they did not have their seat belts on.

The number one safety violation committee by firefighters is still not using their seat belts. This means WE ARE NOT "Ready to Respond." If we know this, why can't we fix it?

A colleague of mine who investigates line of duty deaths went to visit her daughter and grandson. My friend had just completed a seat belt related LODD investigation. The crash was still on her mind when she met the six-year-old grandson and he asked her why she was sad. She explained that a firefighter had died because he fell out of a fire truck. The boy asked her if he had his seat belt on, and she replied, that he did not.

"Why not Grandma", he asked? "Well, it's complicated", she said (referring to the explanation not the act). He looked at her with a puzzled look and said, "no it's not Grandma, it's real easy, you just click it together!"

The six-year old, the princess, the governor, and the firefighter all know. "It's really easy (to use seat belts), you just click them together." But, do they buckle up every time? The only one I am 100% confident in is the six-year-old.

Does the fire service want children to see us riding in fire trucks without our seat belts on? Does your Governor know that firefighters in the state do not use seat belts all the time? Does your mother, spouse, children, and grandchildren know that you do not use your seat belt when on the fire truck? Do you know that firefighters died to get seat belts put on your fire apparatus? We can fix our number one safety violation immediately.

Has your fire chief asked you to take the National Fire Service Seat Belt Pledge? Has the state fire chiefs and firefighters associations asked its members to take the pledge? Can one million firefighters promise to wear their seat belt? Can we follow our own seat belt rules? I hope your answer is yes because it is easy to take the pledge and to buckle up.

If your answer is no you can start planning for more funerals and visits to hospitals because you are not ready to respond.

Thank you to all the firefighters who have taken the pledge. Congratulations to all the fire departments that have 100% participation in the seat belt pledge campaign. Your efforts are making a difference to help ensure that Everyone Goes Home. Whether you're a member of the royalty, a high elected official, a firefighter, or a six-year-old we all can make a difference one click at a time.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Deana Newell Vernon for sharing her father's story with us. Captain Duane Hughes is leading his fire department in keeping them safe and setting the example for all drivers and officers. The members of the Columbus, MS, Fire and Rescue Department, know the power of the National Fire Service Seat Belt Pledge to help make our safety culture better.

Finally, the skill, artistry, and dedication of Susan Bell and Jim Scott of WCBI Television Columbus, MS bring the story of Firefighter Hugh Lee Newell to life which will help save firefighters' lives. Thanks to all of you.

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