As your president, my number one goal is to ensure that everyone goes home. But sometimes, that doesn’t happen. A line-of-duty death (LODD) is not only the worst day for the family of the fallen firefighter, but the worst day for us, brothers and sisters in the fire service, too.
So what can we do to minimize or even eliminate the LODD? In one word: prevention. A constant commitment to this singular idea by every chief officer in every fire/rescue department worldwide is the key.
As leaders, we must ensure that our firefighters are trained, equipped and prepared to respond. We must know the potential hazards in our communities. In metro areas, we must ensure firefighters are protected in high-rise buildings by making sure building codes are in place and enforced. Are there preventive protections in place, such as sprinkler systems and nonflammable building materials?
We must educate our communities about prevention. Many departments have excellent community outreach programs. But when was the last time yours was really examined and updated? Is your department doing everything it can with the resources available to it to promote fire safety?
We must take advantage of modern technologies, including improvements in early warning systems and science dynamics.
At my installation at FRI, I challenged you to do your part to reduce fire deaths by:
- Conducting a smoke alarm drive in a particular area of your community,
- Lobbying before your local government entity for residential sprinklers, and
- Ensuring your firefighters get their physicals every year and stay healthy.
You’ll notice the word “must” peppered throughout this column. That’s because these things aren’t optional or nice to have; they must be done if we’re to reduce or abolish LODDs. Isn’t that the best way we can honor those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice: to do everything we can to ensure the worst doesn’t happen to another?
Each October, the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation sponsors the official national tribute to all firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year; it will be my great honor and privilege to represent the IAFC during this year’s remembrance, October 3-4.
Thousands attend the Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland, finding time to reflect on the lives lost and demonstrate to the families of our fallen firefighters our deepest sympathies and highest respect for their sacrifices.
This will be the fifth year that bells will ring across the country on Sunday, October 4, to honor firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2014 and previous years.
I join the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in “asking communities, fire service organizations, and religious organizations to help honor fallen firefighters by participating in Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters.” (Visit FireHero.org to learn more.)
Please join me in honoring our fallen, doing all we can to prevent future LODDs and preparing for a safer tomorrow.
Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr
President and Chair of the Board