By Janelle Foskett, managing editor, FireRescue magazine
Chief Joseph Auffert of the Howell County Rural Fire Department #1 in West Plains, Mo, was honored with the first-annual Safe Firefighter of the Year Award Friday morning at the Hale booth (1823). The program, sponsored by Hale in cooperation with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), is designed to help fire companies stay focused on the importance of the 16 Life Safety Initiatives and honor those individuals who lead their peers in a commitment to safety.
Chief Auffert said that it was an honor and privilege to win the award, and explained why he made safety initiatives such a priority at his 24-person department. “We had a lot of close calls back in 2002, and we lost a firefighter at a fire,” he said. “That’s when I started beefing up the safety part of the department.” He appointed three safety officers, and began focusing on safety-related issues related to driving, accountability and fitness.
From left, Bruce Lear, Hale’s vice president of sales and marketing; Cathy Hedrick, corporate relations specialist for the NFFF; Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann; Chief Joseph Auffert; and Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson.
As part of the award, Chief Auffert was presented with a $5,000 check for the Howell County Rural Fire Department, a Hale HP75 portable pump and a VersaClimber LX cardiovascular exercise machine. Chief Auffert said he plans to put the cash award toward additional safety programs. “Keeping our firefighters safe is our #1 priority,” he added.
The award was presented by Bruce Lear, Hale’s vice president of sales and marketing; Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson; Cathy Hedrick, corporate relations specialist for the NFFF; and Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann. According to Lear, approximately 18 months ago, Mann delivered a speech in which he challenged fire service suppliers to make safety a priority in their products and services. Hale representatives knew then that they wanted to do something to give back to first responders—so they created the Safe Firefighter of the Year Award program.
Greeson noted that he and Mann read the nominations for the award separately, and both knew that Auffert was the clear choice. “The programs he put in place were by far the best,” Greeson said. “He emphasized the importance of safety at small departments; the size of the department doesn’t matter when it comes to safety.”
For more information about the Hale Safe Firefighter of the Year Award or its Safe Firefighter of the Month program, visit www.safe-firefighter.com
. Hale will send your department a starter kit that includes “Safe Firefighter of the Month” certificates to hand out to your firefighters.
For more about Hale Products, visit www.haleproducts.com