Another Plead For Seatbelt Use --- Why Aren't We Doing It?

Seatbelts: Enough is enough. Buckle up.

On any given day as United States Fire Administrator, I receive an abundance of information regarding the nation's fire service. As one can imagine, some of the information is good — and some is tragic.

It is the information I have been receiving over the past weeks which motivates me to comment today regarding the use – or, more importantly, the lack of use — of seatbelts. It is a tragedy when we lose a firefighter to a fire; it's a national fire service tragedy and embarrassment when we lose firefighters from vehicle ejections.

This is something we can put an immediate stop to. Each and everyone one of us owns this problem. We are each responsible for the actions we take or don't take. We are each responsible for stopping these preventable losses from ever occurring.

Is riding fire apparatus unbuckled an act of bravery? What will you tell the survivors of a firefighter lost simply because they would not buckle up? What will the burden be of the survivors during future graduations, weddings, and other significant life events be, knowing their firefighter could have shared it all by taking the simple step of buckling up? As company officers and supervisors, how could you possibly leave a station without your firefighters strapped in? I ask you today as fire service members, what part of firefighting is so important that you must be unbuckled riding on fire apparatus? What part of the mission of the fire service is so important that we allow firefighters to travel (by fire vehicles or POVs) without being securely belted into their seats? A common excuse is that riding unbuckled saves time, but in fact ejection and actions resulting from lack of seatbelt use impede the missions of your departments.

Enough is enough. Buckle up.

Several weeks ago I received word that Dallas Fire Chief Eddie Burns, Sr. successfully led a department-wide effort to secure the 100% support of seatbelt usage by the members of the Dallas Fire Department. Over 1,700 employees of the Dallas Fire Department have taken the simple and straight forward national seatbelt pledge to ensure that each and every member of the Dallas Fire Department is safely secured to moving fire apparatus. My sincere congratulations to the members of the Dallas Fire Department and to Chief Burns for this achievement.

Just yesterday I learned that Frederick County, Maryland has also achieved their 100% seatbelt pledge commitment. They join the growing ranks of departments that have achieved 100%. Given the recent actions of the Dallas Fire Department, Frederick County Fire Department, and others including the IAFC Board of Directors, the staff here at the USFA has taken the pledge as well. We do not have fire apparatus here at USFA; we do however have a dedicated staff traveling back and forth from Washington, DC in official vehicles and involved with national response efforts of FEMA. Just as important, a significant number of USFA staff also volunteer in local fire and EMS departments.

I am pleased to announce that the Canadian Fire Services have also joined this effort.

When I heard the news of these and so many other departments now taking the pledge, I knew immediately there was no department in this nation — or Canada — that could not take this simple step to improve firefighter safety.

As many of you already know, and many others should know, firefighter Christopher Brian Hunton, age 27, was a member of the Amarillo Texas Fire Department for one year. On April 23, 2005 he fell out of his fire truck responding to an alarm; he died two days later from his injuries. Brian was not wearing his seat belt. It is in his name — and in the names of others who suffered a similar fate — that we continue to work to ensure all firefighters buckle up. It requires such little effort to ensure all firefighters go home at the end of the day and not become victims of this preventable death.

This is the second time I have addressed this issue with the fire service through the Chief's Corner, yet people keep dying, in part due to their not wearing a seat belt. In my opinion, each and every one of these deaths is preventable. I truly wish I could understand why this act is looked upon with disdain by firefighters. I would like someone to explain to me why they feel putting their lives, their fellow firefighters, and family at risk is a part of their job. Instead I continue to get line of duty death notifications where firefighters have made the conscious decision to risk everything and not wear their seatbelt.

Buckle up and take an extra moment to make sure your fellow firefighters are also.

Greg Cade

U.S. Fire Administrator

Views: 209

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Comment by Daniel Robert Garvin on September 26, 2008 at 6:40am
10-4! Ditto here buddy! Stay safe.
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on August 9, 2008 at 11:18am
Here is a link to the NIOSH report.
Two were NOT wearing seatbelts. BOTH were ejected. One lived; one died.
And the widow is suing the apparatus manufacturer. Now; this was a 1987 reserve unit.
I would love to see the basis of her suit.
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on August 8, 2008 at 9:57pm
In this fatal incident, the firefighter was ejected from the apparatus, most likely because he wasn't wearing his seatbelt.
However; the widow is suing the apparatus manufacturer.
The link was provided by thesecretlist. Please read:
Fireman's widow sues firetruck maker
The Associated Press
Article Launched: 08/06/2008 10:12:40 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES—The widow of a Riverside County fireman killed in a firetruck crash three years ago is suing the manufacturer for negligence.

Kathryn Kanton blames Spartan Motors for the death of 23-year-old Chris Kanton, who was ejected from a 1987 Spartan firetruck when it hydroplaned off Interstate 10 during a downpour in Beaumont.

Kanton attorney Eric Traut says Spartan "had a duty to maintain and repair" the firetruck.

The wrongful death suit was filed in Los Angeles federal court because Spartan is headquartered in Charlotte, Mich. Spartan has denied allegations in the suit.

Only in America!
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on August 1, 2008 at 11:55pm
It's hard for anyone to "look up to us" if our lifeless bodies are being LOWERED into the ground simply because some still refuse to wear their seatbelts!
That's not being over dramatic.
That's being REAL.
Comment by Kimberly A Bownas on August 1, 2008 at 11:24pm
In our department you are suppose to buckle up and that is part of our SOP's and even at my new job with the paid EMS service we are to buckle up. If we are caught not there are repercussions and I happen to think it is a really good thing. I was brought up that you wear a seatbelt every time you get in the car to go any where and I have instilled that into all of my kids. I wouldn't have it any other way and besides how do we ask our kids to buckle up when we don't. We should be leading by example and not the old adage "do as I say and not as I do"... We need to be more responsible especially when kids look up to us as heroes and role models.
Comment by Mary Ellen Shea on July 31, 2008 at 4:11pm
Nicely said Jim. And done with class.

Your department, unfortunately, is in the minority when it comes to buckling up, as we've discussed. As Art said, and I agree 110%, the bottom line is drawn with the company officers.
If there are no penalties or disciplinary actions taken on firefighters who don't or won't buckle up, then where is the impetus to follow common sense safety practices?

NYS NEEDS a seatbelt law for emergency vehicles. I just don't know how high the body count has to get before a law is put into place, but in the meantime, we should be policing ourselves instead of shrugging our shoulders and looking the other way when we don't buckle up.
And we should be better than THAT.
Comment by Jim Brunelle Jr. on July 31, 2008 at 3:50pm
The crazy thing is that NY state has a seatbelt law for all other motorized,registered,road legal vehicles, and the fire departments need to police the apparatus, as well as the occupants of those apparatus. I know in my company the apparatus will not be moved unless all occupants are seatbelted if this doesn't happen the operator as well as the person in the officers seat will have to answer for it.
This posting weather duplicated or not is just an effort to spread the word on safety, although some people think that it's foolish to have the same post on more than one persons blog. I have removed the negitive remarks by certain members of the Nation.
And I do apologize for taking them personally and lashing out at the person who took a jab at American firefighters. It wasn't very professional of me. We are better than that.
Comment by Jim Brunelle Jr. on July 31, 2008 at 11:05am
My apologies.
Comment by Firefighter Nation WebChief on July 31, 2008 at 11:02am

I don't care if you like someone's opinion or not PERSONAL ATTACKS like name calling have no place here...blogs, forums or otherwise.

Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on July 31, 2008 at 10:38am
Well, here in Illinois, it took Lt. Scott Gillen dying at an accident scene to get the law that requires motorists to slow down and move over when they see emergency lights.
In the first year after it went into law, I think 74 citations TOTAL for the entire state was written. Now; I drive interstate every day and saw this law violated EVERY DAY.
Since that time, I think 5000 plus have been written.
So, my point is that I think if a seatbelt law is enacted, then it is useless unless it is enforced.
The pie is: leadership that will draft it, legislature that will pass it, fire department leaders that will enforce it and firefighters who will recognize the benefits of such law and follow it without question EVERY TIME they roll to a call.
Questions? You in the back...

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