Safety Karma

I can relate to Earl Hickey, the fictional character portrayed on the new hit series "My Name is Earl". Earl has a shady past to say the least. His one stroke of luck (winning the lottery) was immediately preceded by getting hit by a car. While recuperating in the hospital, he realizes that he has not changed and his bad actions are the actual cause of all the bad things that continually happen to him. With time on his hands, he compiles a lengthy list of wrongs he has committed. By crossing the bad things he has done off his list, he is convinced his "karma" will improve. It seems to be working.

Like Earl, I would like to right some of the wrongs that I have done, to myself and others. As with Earl, my list is quite long; with safety specifically in mind, here are just a few items that I can easily cross off my list ….

  1. Did not wear my seatbelt - I have been guilty of this one many times. The excuses are numerous … I was putting on my SCBA, it will slow me down exiting the cab, we have an excellent driver, it won't happen to us. Tops on my list, an easy fix, I will now always be belted before the apparatus moves.

  2. Failed to contribute - Safety, we don't need no stinking safety. How can we do our job if we are always safe? Say that out loud slowly. How stupid does it sound to you? We do take risks, however, they should be educated risks driven by risk vs. gain. Experience, education and common sense driven by a team effort should always guide the way for safety and efficiency at an incident. I can and will make difference by contributing to the overall safety attitude of the fire service.
  3. Not in the best physical shape - Give me that big bowl of ice cream. It's to hot to run today. Guess I will just go up a waist size when ordering uniforms this year. I've used all of these, how about you? It comes down to four words; eat less, exercise more. I will make a conscious effort to lose weight and maintain better flexibility.
  4. Did not fully participate in training - How long are we going to be here today? We've done this before; it's the same old thing year after year. History tells us that it is the same old thing that continues to kill firefighters year after year. I will make a serious effort to listen and comprehend what the instructor is saying. After all, they are doing for my benefit.

The safety arena is just one segment of my life where I have taken numerous short cuts. Hopefully, this personal list of my shortcomings will serve as a roadmap and allow for immediate improvement in the area of my "safety karma". My name is Dave; I'm just trying to be a better (and safer) person.


Dave Murphy retired as Assistant Chief of the Richmond (KY) Fire Department. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Fire & Safety Engineering Technology program located at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He also serves as the Health & Safety Officer for the Harrisburg (NC) Fire Department. An NFPA Certified Fire Protection Specialist, he is also a technical committee member on NFPA 610 which deals with safety at motorsports venues. Dave is also Eastern Director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association.

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