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President`s Letter: Tailboards and Pole Holes

The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation has done a truly remarkable job in the creation of a state memorial to fallen firefighters on the grounds of the capitol in St. Paul. They have identified 208 firefighters who have died in the line of duty in Minnesota history and have made it their mission to track down and honor the descendents of these fallen firefighters.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in their annual memorial service. As the names of the fallen firefighters, the year of their passing and brief stories about what caused their deaths were read, I was struck by how much our profession and the dangers we face have changed. It seemed that many of the LODDs were due to falling off the tailboard of moving fire engines and falling down unprotected pole holes in fire stations. We've solved those problems, for the most part. We don't even build engines with tailboards anymore and pole holes, when we find them, are protected by doors and railings.

We have all but eliminated those LODD causes by studying the problem, learning from experience and changing our practices. Well done!

One of the most significant accomplishments of the IAFC in recent years was the development of the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System. Modeled on a similar program in the aviation industry, Near-Miss provides a safe and anonymous method to share tough lessons learned. It's been extraordinarily successful in getting firefighters to report near misses and in turning those near-miss reports into valuable learning opportunities for the fire and emergency service.

Near-Miss suffered its very own near miss last year when federal funding, which had supported the program throughout its history, was lost. There was a time when we were very close to losing Near-Miss and all of the good work that it does to help us to learn from experience and make the fire service safer.

Thanks to hard work by some very dedicated people and the generosity of the Fire Protection Programs at Oklahoma State University, an interim survival plan for Near Miss was developed and implemented in early 2013. A few months ago, grant funding was received to complete the transition for Near-Miss and move it to an independent status that is capable of surviving on its own.

I'm excited to announce that we'll soon see the fruits of that labor with new Near-Miss web portal to be launched in 2014. It will be more user-friendly and will make it even easier to use—both inputting reports and getting training resources out—than it has ever been in the past.

If you haven't visited in a while, I encourage you to visit the Near-Miss site and get reacquainted. Perhaps most importantly, use the excellent resources available on the site to develop training programs and examine your organization's policies so we learn from experience and become a safer fire service.

We solved the problems of falling off tailboards and falling down pole holes by learning from the experiences of others. The fire service today is much safer because of the foresight and effort that went into solving those problems. We have an excellent opportunity to continue to make our profession safer by not just maintaining the Near-Miss program, but by actively working to enhance it and put the information available to work making the fire service safer.

I've established a personal goal to bring LODDs down to zero, and Near-Miss is one of the most powerful tools we have to help us achieve that goal. Please use it!

Chief William R. Metcalf, EFO, CFO
President and Chairman of the Board

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