People are our most important asset. How often have you heard someone say that? Sadly, there are far too many for whom this phrase is mere window dressing. Far too many just mouth the words they think others want to hear.
Once a life is lost it can never be replaced. The pain and suffering brought on by job-related injuries can be a drain on fire department resources. More than that, they can rob you of the services of your people. Without people, all you have is a bunch of shiny, bright red fire trucks.
Safety must become a critical element for your fire department. But safety can only occur if the light of a brilliant idea comes on in someone's head. Preferably that light bulb will blink on in the head of the Chief. Someone who can get this important task accomplished.
Sadly this is not always the case. Fire service leaders sometimes grow out of touch with the people in the fire stations. This is a dangerous trend. However, it is one that we have seen far too often.
However, once the decision to pursue organizational safety has been made, the next stop should be the code book. My review there indicates that there is a great deal which you, as a concerned and caring fire officer (or firefighter) should do. There are a number of important tasks which must be done by the fire department in order to develop a safety structure for the organization.
1. Develop a fire department organizational statement
2. Create a risk management plan
3. You will have to create policy (an organizational way of doing things.)
4. Define roles and responsibilities
5. Appoint a department safety officer
6. Set up a committee
7. Develop a training program
8. Develop a vehicular training program
9. Buy them safe, train safe, keep it safe
10. Protective clothing
11. Emergency Operations
12. Facility safety
13. Medical and Physical Program
14. Member assistance
The road to safety is not simple, rather it is a long and winding path. The journey must be made by all parties concerned. It cannot just be a paper plan of the leaders, or an informal plan created by the people fighting the fires. There is a great deal of hard work and heart burn in working together to develop an official safety program. But it beats the hell out of hurting or killing people.
Be sure that all of your operating personnel receive a medical examination on a yearly basis. It is best if you begin with a thorough entrance physical to establish a baseline for assessing an individual's physical condition. In this way each annual physical charts the effect of firefighting on the individual. And it can provide appropriate warning if an individual begins to develop job- related physical problems.
Having recruited healthy candidates into your department, it is up to you to see that they stay that way. One good method is through the use of a physical conditioning program. Counseling on diet and life style are also important. Bad habits, whether on or off duty, can have a negative impact on job performance.
Training is one area that does not receive enough credit for being a part of a fire department safety program. If people are taught the correct way to perform their duties they will operate in a safer manner, with a lesser chance of injury. In-service drills and periodic refresher training keep people going in a positive direction. If you teach people proper techniques and monitor performance your efforts can limit injuries and possibly prevent death.