When are we going to get serious about firefighter safety, education, and accident prevention?
I find it both ironic and sad that so few of our departments have a recognized safety program. Business and private industry have their own safety programs. Programs that are designed to both investigate, and prevent, employee accident and illness. Does your department have such a program?
Some questions, just to prompt some thought.
Does your fire department have a Safety Officer? Does your department have Safety Committee? Who, if anyone, is responsible for investigating accidents or injuries to your department’s firefighters? Does your department treat an accident/injury as a potential teaching opportunity, to prevent recurrence?
If your fire department is one of a number departments within a municipal or city wide system, do you share information with other members of your municipality or city? Do the chief's have a common goal of eliminating injuries? Or does each department safeguard accident information as a company secret, not to be released to other departments?
Does your department have a vehicle maintenance program? Is it documented? Are the mechanics working on your apparatus certified to do so? Are you sure?
Are your apparatus operators trained to the minimum requirements of NFPA Standard 1002? If not, why not?
When your new apparatus came off the assembly line, it met the requirements of NFPA Standard 1901. However, have you since made modifications to that apparatus, or placed so much equipment on it, that the apparatus is now overweight? Have you ever weighed your service ready apparatus, complete with a full tank of water and crew of 4/5/6 on board?
Do you know what the NFPA Standard 1500 is? What about NFPA Standard 1501? Does your department adhere to these Standards? If not, why not?
Technology is a wonderful thing. Many departments are placing lap top computers in their apparatus and ambulances. Does the location of that laptop, with the lid open, prevent the apparatus operator from seeing the mirrors on the right side of the vehicle? If that is the case, do you find that acceptable? And if you do, please explain to me why that is acceptable!
How much loose equipment does your department carry in the cab of its apparatus? I am talking about portable radios, maps, key boxes, the DOT guide, face pieces for SCBA, hydrant bags, forcible entry tools, etc. How much if this equipment will become an airborne projectile if your apparatus driver has to make an emergency stop?
What are your departments written policy regarding the use of safety belts? Do you mandate that all personnel are restrained before the apparatus is placed in motion? Or does your department allow members to remain unrestrained while they don bunker gear with the apparatus is in motion?
Are your speed lays or primary attack lines strapped to the apparatus or held in by some form of webbing?
How high on your apparatus are your speed lays located? Can you deploy these speed lays, in turnout gear and with SCBA donned, without having to step onto the side of the pump panel, or step up on a discharge?
A member of your department was injured fighting a fire last night. Who is going to investigate this injury? Why are they investigating this injury? Are you looking to cast blame? Or are you studying the incident to determine those actions that may have been able to be done differently, to prevent the accident from happening? Are you being proactive, or simply reactive?
According to the web site firefighterclosecalls.com, there have been 72 line of duty deaths this year to date. The United States Fire Administration counts 67 on duty firefighter fatalities so far this year. According to the NFPA there were 80,100 firefighter injuries in 2007. That number was down 4% from the previous year. 80,000 firefighter injuries.
We have to do better.
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