The condemned man was led up the steps of the gallows. As the rope was placed around his neck, the sheriff asked him, "Do you have any last words?" The man looked around the gallows and said, "I don't believe this darn thing is safe!"
We work in a very dangerous business. We knowingly joined a profession that places our health and safety—and our very lives—in jeopardy. Over the years, we have made significant improvements in our protective gear—in air packs, hearing protection, turnouts and all the other equipment we carry and use. We have improved our engines and trucks. We have added exhaust systems in our firehouses. We have improved our fire codes.
But even with all the improvements, we have continued to see about the same number of line-of-duty injuries and deaths in our firefighters until recently. We have finally seen a drop in our firefighter deaths, starting just last year.
We continue to lose too many good men and women, and we have seen some disturbing evidence that new construction techniques and features are causing early flashover and structural failure when exposed to fire conditions.
We have seen a rise in a number of cancers in our members.
But I think the reason that we are finally seeing some positive news is that we are finally getting it. The firefighters are using seat belts, they are getting their physicals, they are driving more safely and they are using their safety equipment. They are paying more attention to their diets and they are exercising more.
I also believe that the IAFC's Safety, Health & Survival Section has made a tremendous difference in our members’ awareness. They have published the IAFC's Rules of Engagement and a number of other resources; just check out the section’s website.
We have also had tremendous response to the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System. And I'd like to thank our partners at the National Volunteer Fire Council for their efforts to promote health and safety with their Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health.
June 17-23 is International Fire/EMS Safety & Health Week. Join us as we strive to make this darn thing—our business—as safe as possible.
Chief Al H. Gillespie, EFO, CFO, MIFireE
President and Chairman of the Board