So Far, Interest Lags for National Seat Belt Pledge
This is from the home. page. Every fire chief in this country should be on this list and have everyone in his department sign this. This is about reducing the numbers of preventable firefighter deaths. If your name is not on this list, please tell me why.
For more than three years, Dr. Burton A. Clark has written columns, led seminars and taught classes on apparatus seat belt safety. The fire services veteran and National Fire Academy instructor took an ambitious step this year when he created the "Brian Hunton: National Fire Service Seat Belt Pledge."
Despite Clark's efforts, however, his initial goal of 1.2 million signatures -- the estimated number of firefighters in the U.S. -- is still far from a reality. As of July 7, only 1,473 firefighters had signed and submitted the pledge.
"Maybe people just don't know about it, maybe they're apathetic, but we need to do better," he said. "If they don't know about it they can't sign it. That goes along with how we go about getting the message out (about seat belt safety) in the fire service."
Burton's idea for the pledge came a week after his June 21, 2005 column "Leadership: We Killed Firefighter Brian Hunton" was published on Firehouse.Com.
The column was in response to the death of Hunton, a member of the Amarillo Texas Fire Department who lost his life after falling out of his fire truck while responding to a call April 25. He was not wearing a seat belt.
During that year, 13 out of the 87 firefighter deaths reported by the National Fire Prevention Association were road-vehicle related. Of those fatalities, five of the victims were not wearing seatbelts and four were wearing seatbelts. Seat belt use was not reported in the other four crashes.
Creating the pledge
Clark saw the tragedy a wake up call and an opportunity to greatly reduce the number of unnecessary deaths. "I thought, 'My goodness, I've got to do something. What else did I need to do?,' " he said.
He thought of how when people in a group raise their hand in favor to do something, they are more inclined to do it. He then thought about how much more of a promise people make when they sign a document.
Out of this came a pledge that he began distributing that July to students at the National Fire Academy. He said the pledge was well received by the firefighters in training and that over 90 percent of the students he asked, signed.
"When you actually need to sign your name to something it's like a family promise," he said, comparing the pledge to the Declaration of Independence. "It has that type of foundation to it."
This year Clark decided to take the concept to a more national stage, making the pledge available through one his columns posted in early June in order to coincide with that month's second annual National Fire Safety Stand Down, which stressed apparatus safety.
"It fit perfectly with the whole concept," Clark said. He plans to present the collected signatures to the parents of Hunton at this year's Firehouse Expo, scheduled for late-July in Baltimore.
Although the pledge has brought in small numbers so far, Clark said we would continue to distribute the pledge past the July 21 deadline he set for the final submissions. "If this thing doesn't eventually get close to a million people, I'm not going to be satisfied," he said. "I think once people know about it, a majority of them will sign it."
The need for seat belt safety
Atlantic City Fire Department Battalion Chief Bob Palamaro has been helping Clark spread his message of seat belt safety over the last several years, accompanying him for seminars and enforcing seat belt compliance at his own department.
"Our culture is such that we are not compliant 100 percent of the time," Palamaro said. "Part of it is the image that we are somewhat invincible. We ride around on a very big truck that isn't involved in a lot of crashes. The second thing is a lack of leadership; this is something that needs to be led from the top.
"It's not going to change until you make them accountable," he said. "When I'm riding in the street I pay attention" to who's wearing a seat belt, he said. "But the problem is that I'm not on the street that often. The best accountability is your company officer."
Ron Siarnicki, Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, said it is unfortunate that the fire service's focus on vehicle safety hasn't evolved with the rest of society.
"I think the biggest issue is that over the years the firefighter culture has not embraced seat belt safety as much as it should," he said. "With the use of three-point harnesses, there are concerns about designs and space, but the reality is that the most important thing is getting the firefighters there in one piece.
"A lot of firefighters need to get out of that mindset," Siarnicki said. "I've heard people say the belts are too restrictive, but the reality is you have to stay strapped in to withstand the impact of a crash."
Changing the mindset
For Clark, this was not the first time he has stressed the importance of seat belt use by firefighters, as he been writing columns on the subject since October 2003. His initial inspiration for writing about seat belt safety came while he was in Ohio to teach a class for the Washington Township Fire Department earlier that year.
"I was invited to eat dinner with the firefighters on the shift and join them on any calls," he said. Shortly after, a call was made for a stuck elevator. "I went with them on the call and I was the only one with a seat belt on. I was thinking 'What is my responsibility here?' I didn't want to be a tattletale."
"No one was wearing seat belts going to or coming from the call. I was having this internal battle with myself. Should I say something or shouldn't I?"
In his October 1, 2003 column "To Be or Not to Be a Tattletale," Clark wrote: "The Fire Chief (Allan Woo) picks me up after dinner for the ride to the airport. Do I tell him that the seatbelt policy is not being enforced? Does he already know? Will he think I am a tattletale? The crew treated me to dinner they are great guys. I'm not a squealer. I do not have any official authority or responsibly to address this issue. The 20-minute trip to the airport is long. I say nothing."
Clark said he eventually found out that the captain of that shift was head of their safety committee. "That's what started it all and it sort of snowballed form there." Clark said when he finally worked up the courage to tell Woo about the experience, the department's attitude toward seat belt safety changed for the better.
"I'm only one guy," he said. "The only thing I can do is draw people's attention to it… There has to be a lot of people out there that see the light and have the commitment to do this."
Clark said in order for more firefighters take the seat belt pledge -- and ultimately wear them to and from calls -- there would have to be a change in culture. "I'd like to see the crew in 'Rescue Me' wear seatbelts," he said, noting that the way firefighters are portrayed and Hollywood can set a positive or negative example and steer firefighter trends.
"A lot of it has to do with peer pressure," he said. "If you get 50 percent of a department to sign the pledge and they convince the other 50 percent to sign it, then that would be a major accomplishment."
No one has signed it because no one knows about it
Although I agree with Bones' answer... until this article, I'd never heard of the pledge.
Originally Posted by superchef
Sorry, but the people who refuse to wear seat belts aren't the type to be swayed by feel-good petitions.
Originally Posted by SSTONER