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Before we go to this month?s Close Call case study, I want to throw a few thoughts on the table regarding firefighter line-of-duty deaths. Several readers recently e-mailed, ?Does it seem like there are more and more of them?? Yes, to me it does, although, there may be some changes on the horizon. So often when firefighters lose their lives, the discussion among firefighters centers on ?How did it happen?? or ?Why did it happen?? Of course, over time, the experts will help put it all together so we can learn from it. Sometimes, what happened is not as simple as it may appear.
As many of you may have read, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation hosted the first Firefighter Line-of-Duty-Death Summit in Tampa, FL, in March. By this printing, you will know what was discussed at the event, which will soon lead to specific goals and objectives. It will be a roadmap in the plan to impact our job, resulting in a drastic reduction in line-of-duty deaths. There will be some ?dead serious? recommendations that, it is hoped, will be taken seriously and applied by every single fire service organization with one common ?agreeable? focus: their members.
This is the first time in our history that nearly every national fire service organization (as well as the trade publications and some manufacturers) was invited, and nearly 100% attended and participated on clearly equal ground.
Time will tell, but why would any fire service organization not plan to adopt the forthcoming recommendations? After all, they will directly and very positively impact their own specific membership. As an old friend used to say, ?What?s not to like??
It is very easy to look at any firefighter line-of-duty death and ask, very sadly and seriously, ?Why did they do that?? or ?Why did she do this?? or ?Why didn?t he do that?? Why is it very easy? Because it is simple conversation, and simple conversation is usually just that ? easy, emotional and simple, without much substance or resulting change. The real challenge is to make the ?dead serious? changes, if we want to (as one reader wrote) make ?it? stop. But talk is cheap.
Of course, we must spend time mourning those who have lost their lives doing what we do. But, in many, many cases, it ends there. That?s why we see so many of ?the same? line-of-duty deaths happening again and again. With the ?national? effort that is now in its beginning stages, our need for mourning can very realistically become less. With the potential for one common, ?bipartisan? focus seriously impacting firefighter injury and death reduction, our prevention can become more.
It?s going to take major work to get this done, but I don?t think we?ve ever been closer. In the meantime, here are 12 very basic and random thoughts that can be done to immediately reduce firefighter line-of-duty deaths:
2. Don?t back up the apparatus without a backer. Ever.
3. Treat all roadway incidents with an attitude that ?some motorist is going to run us over.? Block or shut down the roadway to insure a safe operating zone.
4. If you wouldn?t let your child breathe the air, don?t you breathe the air. Use your mask.
5. Don?t stray from your crew or a line. Officers, don?t let your crew stray from you.
6. Find out now where your radios work ? and don?t work ? before you find out at a fire.
7. If a fire has been burning below the wood floor, don?t walk on it.
8. Treat ?accountability? as if you will be accountable if a firefighter is lost.
9. If you have ?lunatic? drivers in your fire department, don?t let them drive.
10. If you know members have been drinking or doping, do whatever it takes to not allow their response.
11. Officers, enforce the standard operating guidelines (SOGs) without worrying if your firefighters ?will like you.?
12. It?s incident command, not ?incident do whatever you want.? Strictly train and drill regularly to command every incident with full focus on members returning home safely.