We spend a lot of time thinking before we write commentaries. When one is written, a huge attempt is made to insure that it carries the ?correct? message and that it provides some information to help correct a problem?or alter some thinking.
And then we get information that simply kicks us in the stomach.
This weekend, a New Jersey firefighter was injured when she fell off the back of the apparatus while in route to a social activity.
It?s 2004 and so many good folks in our business are working their butts off in an attempt to reduce firefighter injury and death. There have never been more been meetings, summits and all sorts of training programs to reduce firefighter injury and death. The IAFC, the IAFF, the NVFC, the USFA and many others have never worked harder on this issue than they are now.
So then what happens?
What happens is that the message is not reaching everyone that it needs to reach, or they are simply not paying attention.
This past weekend some well-intentioned firefighters get on their apparatus, riding the tailboard, and proceed to a new fire engine ?wetdown? in a neighboring community. Then the predictable happens. One of the firefighters falls off the apparatus and gets hurt, luckily not seriously.
What is the problem?
The problem is that according to the article, a local resident is quoted as suggesting the firefighters should not have been riding outside of the apparatus. And that firefighters, according to this resident, should always be mindful of caution and safety. The local resident identified the problem.
THE LOCAL RESIDENT SAW THAT IT WAS A PROBLEM.
Fortunately, the firefighter wasn?t hurt seriously. But what if she had been? Or what if she was killed. It would be called a ?Line Of Duty Death?, and all the nation would be mourning. Hearts would be broken. Memorials would be set up. And maybe someone would start thinking about the fact that maybe we might be better off not riding the outside of the apparatus!
Think this is an old problem that had been fixed? I did too.
A few months ago we wrote a commentary about how the Pittsburgh Fire Department has forced some of their members to ride tailboards on reserve apparatus. And one fell off and was hurt. We have been also sent several pictures of firefighters riding tailboards and running boards in March of 2004!
Then last month, history tragically repeated itself when veteran Brookline, Mass. Firefighter Buss Gross was killed when he fell out of a rig. And this past weekend in New Jersey, a firefighter fell off the back of the rig while riding tailboard to a new fire apparatus ?wetdown?. So what?s the answer?
Now, when I say accountability I am not talking about some rarely effective luggage tags that we pretend to track firefighters with. I am talking about personal accountability at the level of every member of any fire department to focus on making sure we don?t get hurt or killed.
Honestly, I could care less about whatever excuse existed for that firefighter to ride tailboard because she could have been killed. Nothing is so important that we have to risk our members on stuff like that. She is someone?s daughter, and almost ended up being someone?s badly hurt daughter, or crippled daughter or worse.
I absolutely love my kids. I am sure her parents love her. We have a responsibility to make sure they all come home after the run, even if we have to think of our firefighters as our ?own? kids. Actually, they are. Their parents loan us their kids and expect us to take good care of them. The horrible consequences of not taking care of the firefighters as if they are our own are well documented.
As so many have said before, this ain?t rocket science.
What is getting us hurt or worse?