Last weekend, as has been reported, horrible tragedy struck at the New Jersey State Firefighters Convention where a firefighter has been presumed drowned in the Ocean. As horrible as that is, there are also unconfirmed reports of possibly another death..."convention" related.
We hope to have more facts soon (if anything else did occur) but the common thread from almost everyone we spoke to about the annual convention in Wildwood is that they almost expect tragic stuff to happen at this convention!?
Two seasoned former N.J. fire chiefs we spoke to said "Usually something bad happens to someone" ... and no one seems shocked-although everyone was saddened. Other veteran firefighters say that the convention has lost focused on it's mission-but overall, the attitude was kinda "well ... what can ya do."
We also spoke to several current very well respected Fire Chiefs and Commissioners who no longer support or fund their members who wish to attend-due to the tragic history.
Until we can confirm any additional facts, and we really hope there are no more, we won't comment any further on that specific event. We love N.J. and have been to the convention...but this is hardly just a Jersey issue.
This isn't the first "convention" (in many states) where tragic events have occurred. Sure -- in many cases, it's all about personal responsibility ... but when that fails, who is looking out for whom? Doesn't that "brotherhood" or "sisterhood" stuff kick in at some point? Aren't any "alarms" going off when a firefighter loses their life at a convention-any convention?
It's bad enough that firefighters risk their lives and sometimes get hurt-or killed when doing or attempting to do the job-even when everything is done right. But at a convention or social activity?
Something is really wrong somewhere.
Do we now need to have some national fire service group establish "convention survival standards"...? Do we need to establish "convention accountability" sectors so we can track those we supposedly care about ... especially when they fail to be personally accountable?
Do we need "convention" PASS alarms so we don't lose anyone else? The vendors and manufacturers can make up all the alarms, tags and vests we need to accomplish that.
This stuff blows me away. Maybe the Commissioners or Chiefs of departments sending members to conventions, members who are representing their FD, need to make it real clear what is expected? What if they (the bosses) are attending? What is they are pasrt of the issue?
Someone's loved one dies at a convention --conventions that are supposed to be "brother/sister-hood" based and an attitude seems to be ... "well ... what can ya do"??
We aren't gonna rant and rave about the causes-be it drinking, drugs, being goofy, exhaustion or whatever the "root" causes are. We have all screwed up in the personal responsibility department at one time or another, and have done "goofy and/or dumb" stuff in our time as firefighters.
I have a few prize "goofy and/or dumb trophies" myself. But when we keep "blowing off" the injuries or deaths of "our own" at these kinds of gatherings..(not to mention NOT at these kinds of activities) ... or at least the potential of it occuring, something has happened to the "hood" stuff that we so often-often too easily, talk about and refer to.
It's horrible enough for firefighters and families to deal with "LODD FF Deaths" ... no matter what the cause and we offer our deepest condolences. Who doesn't?
We all do-after the tragic loss. But tragic and probably avoidable deaths of "our own" at "our own" supposedly "nonhazardous" gatherings -- man oh man -- that's gotta be fixed ... before the loss. That poor family and loved ones of the promising young firefighter who was lost is going through hell right now.
It's a tough battle to prevent some of the injuries and deaths that keep occurring while on a scene -- or responding or other related "on duty" stuff as we attempt "cultural" changes in this business. But maybe though, like some firefighter line of duty deaths-these other kinds of firefighter deaths can also be prevented at the local level by true demonstration of "taking care of our own" (before and at a convention) and "everybody coming home" (from the convention).
We recently participated in a meeting with several fire folks complaining that there are "too many conferences and conventions". I don't know about that-when it's a valued conference and convention with business and serious training related activities, there is never enough. On the other hand, when "we" get together to attend something that is the complete opposite, those "in-charge" oughta take a closer look at the obvious.
It's tough enough to keep our troops safe around smoke, heat, fire, apparatus responses and at training -- but losing our own at a convention?
Sisterhood? Brotherhood? Prove it.