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  1. #1
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    Default 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.


    PAUL PELUSO
    Firehouse.Com News

    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."
    Last edited by superchef; 07-13-2006 at 05:38 PM.


  2. #2
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    If your name is not on this list, please tell me why.
    Because I simply don't see a need to fill out a form and fax it into this guy. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether we actually wear seatbelts or not, it truly serves no purpose. That's why.

    And for the record, we have a seatbelt policy and we do wear the seatbelts.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Forum Member KEEPBACK200FEET's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    Because I simply don't see a need to fill out a form and fax it into this guy. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether we actually wear seatbelts or not, it truly serves no purpose. That's why.

    And for the record, we have a seatbelt policy and we do wear the seatbelts.
    EXACTLY what I was thinking Bones.
    Just know, I chose my own fate. I drove by the fork in the road and went straight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KEEPBACK200FEET
    EXACTLY what I was thinking Bones.
    Me three! I glad Dr. Clark cares, but I'm don't know why he thinks a pledge will have a greater effect than all the laws and statisitics. The only people that would even thnk of pledging are proabably those who already comply as a rule anyway.

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    Fair enough. Thanks for the replies.

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    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Just a guess, but I suspect the the entire purpose of the pledge is to signify that your Unit actually does have a seatbelt SOG/SOP in place and that it is adhered to. Its just acknowlegement, thats all.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    Forum Member KEEPBACK200FEET's Avatar
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    I think that a "I will pledge to wear my seatbelt next time I ride the truck" type of campaign/pledge is whats really needed if they want to do something like this.
    Just know, I chose my own fate. I drove by the fork in the road and went straight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM
    Me three! I glad Dr. Clark cares, but I'm don't know why he thinks a pledge will have a greater effect than all the laws and statisitics. The only people that would even thnk of pledging are proabably those who already comply as a rule anyway.
    The Pledge = awareness. It's advertising, that's all.

    So what happens if you don't make the pledge and don't give it another thought? Nothing. But what if you're a company officer and you make the pledge (whether or not you actually sign anything)? Now you have several firefighters whose chances of going home in a body bag have been reduced in some small way.

    For what its worth, I make my crew members wear their seat belts. When someone is assigned as a fill in I usually don't have to say a word - my crew makes sure they're belted up.

    Dr. Clark gave the welcome speech a while back when I was at the National Fire Acadamy and this was one of the topics he spoke on. I would suggest that everyone aspiring to be a company officer find and read his article about his ride along and how he agonized over whether to talk to the chief about the fact that his crews were not belting up. There are some good lessons in leadership in that article.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    Because I simply don't see a need to fill out a form and fax it into this guy. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether we actually wear seatbelts or not, it truly serves no purpose. That's why.

    And for the record, we have a seatbelt policy and we do wear the seatbelts.
    I think a reason to put your name on it would be to show unity. It shows those who do not have SOG in place or simply refuse to enforce one to maybe rethink their posistion.

    You know, " I dont wear my seat belt cause I am cool" might go out the window.

    If you follow your SOG/P - excellent.
    Warm Regards,
    Shawn Stoner
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    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Lightbulb No one has signed it because no one knows about it

    Quote Originally Posted by superchef
    If your name is not on this list, please tell me why.
    Although I agree with Bones' answer... until this article, I'd never heard of the pledge.

    Quote Originally Posted by SSTONER
    It shows those who do not have SOG in place or simply refuse to enforce one to maybe rethink their posistion.
    Sorry, but the people who refuse to wear seat belts aren't the type to be swayed by feel-good petitions.
    Last edited by cozmosis; 07-15-2006 at 12:44 PM. Reason: To add my reply to SSTONER

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    I have preached the same seatbelt message for years to my volunteer fire company. A few years ago on a call, it mattered. In 2002, one of our units (approx. 12,000 lbs.) was struck on I-95 by a T-T at 60mph from behind. Our unit was on the right shoulder coming to a stop with lights on. It flipped our unit and sent it 146ft. on its side. All firefighters were wearing seatbelts and all lived.

    I think the pledge is trying to get the officers to become more aware and help create and/or enforce seatbelt rules and use. Persistence pays off.

    If articles and stories don't work, maybe a new idea like this will. I might even try it in my own company. Those who "refuse" aren't allowed to if rules are enforced. I'm not a safety nut, but simple prevention of loss of firefighter life is okay with me. And good officers can sway those resistent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TFW1TFW1
    I'm not a safety nut, but simple prevention of loss of firefighter life is okay with me. And good officers can sway those resistent.
    ]
    And that, sir, is what it is all about. All I ask for is 10 seconds of your life to buckle up everytime. Do it for your kids, your mom, your dad, your brothers and sisters.
    Last edited by superchef; 07-15-2006 at 07:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cozmosis[FONT=Trebuchet MS
    Sorry, but the people who refuse to wear seat belts aren't the type to be swayed by feel-good petitions.[/FONT]
    Maybe a "feel good" kick in the arse then?
    Warm Regards,
    Shawn Stoner
    EMT-B

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