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    Exclamation Who Rescues The Rescuers?

    I found this in last months edition of the DND Safety Digest:

    Who Rescues the Rescuers?

    Jamaliah Abdullah, Staff Assistant, Directorate of General Safety

    The wail of sirens fills the air and the fire truckís lights begin to flash. Firefighters scramble to gear up and get going. The lives of their friends and neighbours hang in the balance. In the midst of this adrenaline rush, does everyone remember to buckle up?

    Everyone knows that seatbelts are importantóno one can deny that they save lives. In fact, according to Transport Canada, the lives of nearly 12,000 front-seat occupants were saved as a result of seatbelt use between 1990 and 2000. Keeping this number in mind, emergency responders should remember that whether they are racing to respond to an emergency or driving to the supermarket, they should wear their seatbelts.

    Among the general public, most people do remember to buckle up. A 2002-2003 study shows that 88.9% of front-seat occupants of passenger cars, and 88.1% of those in SUVís wear seatbelts. The number is a bit lower for front-seat occupants of pick-up trucks, at 80%. As for emergency responders, some firefighters estimate that an astonishing 50% of their comrades do not wear seatbelts while responding to calls.

    One DND/CF firefighter explained this saying that because of their strong sense of camaraderie they feel secure and trust in each otherís driving. Firefighters also assume that because they are driving an emergency vehicle other drivers will move over and slow down. This is not always the case. Often sense of urgency, weather conditions, other drivers, wildlife and other hazards can create problems for emergency vehicles.

    Most firefighters do seem to agree that wearing a seatbelt is important. Despite this, many emergency responders admit that they are simply more concerned with getting to the scene than with the use of their seatbelts. Nevertheless, what good is speed if the emergency crew does not make it to the scene at all? Maryland firefighter, Ryan Raneiri, fell from a fire truck in January because he was not buckled up. As a result, the engine had to stop to confirm that he was all right. Thankfully, he sustained no major injuries. Christopher Brian Hunton, a 27-year-old firefighter from Amarillo, Texas, was not so lucky. In April of 2005, he died of injuries sustained from falling out of his fire truck while responding to an alarm. He was not buckled up. In response to this tragedy, the National Fire Service and EMS in the United States began the Seat Belt Pledge to encourage seat belt use among emergency responders while on calls.

    It is important to remember that injuries to emergency responders are more far-reaching than injuries to others. They can result in permanent disability and loss of work, which in turn deprives the community of important support. Also, when responders sustain serious injuries on calls, they fail to respond to the emergency.

    DND is well aware of these risks and consequences, which is why there are specific regulations in place regarding seat belt use. According to Chapter 3 of the DND Transportation Manual, emergency responders are required to wear seat belts whenever their vehicle is in motion. This rule helps to protect those who protect others.

    Two of the firefighters are CFB Petawawa are prime examples of this. While responding to a call, despite careful driving, their vehicle rolled into the ditch after hitting a soft shoulder. The truck was substantially damaged, but the two men walked away will little more than a few aches and pains, thanks to their diligent use of their seat belts.

    Using images from this accident, the Canadian Forces Fire Marshallís office has created a new safety poster to remind DND emergency responders to use their seatbelt at all times. They hope that seeing the poster will be the cue that emergency responders need to keep their own safety in mind too.

    The benefits of putting on a seat belt, and the potential consequences of not doing so, clearly illustrate the importance of taking those few extra seconds to buckle up. For further information regarding the Seat Belt Pledge or the Transportation Manual please visit

    www.trainingdivision.com/seatbeltpledge.asp or http://dgmssc.ottawa-hull.mil.ca, respectively
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