Summit Participants Stress Need for Cultural Change

"The issue of safety culture, which sometimes supports undesirable and unsafe behaviors, is the dominant factor that must be addressed in order to accomplish the desired reduction in firefighter fatalities."

This common theme surfaced frequently during the 2007 National Firefighter Life Safety Summit report, and participants also noted that while technology enhancements are easy to identify, keys to behavioral changes are much more complex.


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Among the key recommendations include promote safety culture, adopt crew resource management, make no exceptions for fitness for duty rules, enforce seat belt compliance, create and participate in data programs, establish driving protocols and participate in Firefighter Near-Miss.

They also made suggestions about reducing risks, getting involved in code initiatives, purchasing safer apparatus and tools and making fire and life safety education a higher priority.

The final document -- obtained Thursday evening by Firehouse.com -- stresses the need for every single firefighter to be part of safety initiatives, not just chiefs and officers.

Participants involved in the think tank sessions were aware of the statistics -- a firefighter dies on average every 80 hours and every six hours someone is critically injured while performing their duty.

."Most of these fatalities and injuries could be prevented if firefighter safety was a primary concern of every firefighter, fire department and fire service organization," the report concluded.

During a 2004 summit in Florida, personnel developed 16 Life Safety Initiatives. The most recent gathering was convened develop strategies that departments can embrace as they strive to enhance firefighter safety.

" As the reports were presented to the full Summit, it became clear that, in many ways, the recommendations which dealt with 'things' were much easier to define and describe than those which ask people to change. While the technological suggestions might create budget challenges or require a change in a policy or procedure, they were relatively simple to describe and understand. Trying to figure out how to alter an ingrained value system and change personal behaviors on a large scale to reflect a new safety culture is much more complex," according to the final report.

In addition to making specific recommendations, each group identified issues that should be addressed by the National Fire Academy and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

The goal of the NFFF is to reduce firefighter deaths by 25 percent in five years, and 50 percent in the next decade.

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