Another email hits my inbox. The subject line says “LODD,” and I shake my head, wondering what we can do to stop this from happening.
It still amazes me that we have firefighters losing their lives in the same way over and over again, year after year. Is this something we’ve become accustomed to seeing, as sad as it may be?
In the back of our minds, we believe it will never happen to us, to our department, to any of the members of our organization. “It is with deep regret that we advise you of the line-of-duty death of ….” These are words we hope and pray we will never have to write.
This week I’ve read those lines in two emails. As chief officers in the fire service, it’s our responsibility to ensure we never have to provide such news about members of our organizations.
How do we do this? We train, write policy and provide direction to department members, hoping this will keep us from having to write those dreaded words. The question is whether we’re doing enough to stop those emails.
Any trade magazine you pick up today is packed full of information on fireground tactics, rescue-operations command training and many other technical articles. All of these provide outstanding material to train firefighters, and some touch on keeping members safe during these events.
Yes, we’re training our people to do their jobs, but are we training them how to save their lives? How many times have you heard at the very beginning of a training drill or during a conversation about emergency-scene operations, that our number-one goal is to keep our people safe? Has that just become a catchphrase that’s spoken by each one of us, or do we really mean it? The emails that drop into our inboxes tell the story and the truth.
The purpose of the Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival and Incident Commanders (PDF) is to provide recommended best practices to the fire and emergency service. Departments are encouraged to use these rules to design SOPs and SOGs and firefighter-safety training programs.
While the safety and health of fire/EMS personnel must be considered all day, every day throughout the year, Safety and Health Week offers a single theme on which all fire/EMS departments can focus. Be sure to visit the Safety and Health Week website. It can serve as a one-stop shop for you to gain helpful information on resources and planning to use during the event and all year long.
Let’s take time out this year to rededicate our organizations to safety and health and focus on ensuring that our people go home. Stop those emails!
Keith Padgett currently serves as fire science lead faculty at Columbia Southern University. Padgett retired as chief-fire marshal with Fulton County Fire-Rescue in Atlanta. He also serves as director-at-large for the IAFC’s Safety, Health & Survival Section.