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President`s Letter: Creating a Culture of Safety

As a recruit firefighter in the early 1980s, I had an officer who assembled the crew one day to run an idea by us.

He believed it would be beneficial for the driver to know exactly how many feet of feeder line was laid in order to accurately calculate an effective pump pressure. So he proposed that the firefighter not catching the hydrant would ride the tailboard and count sections as the hose came out of the hose bed.

Although it was my nature to not question my officers, in this case I couldn’t help myself. I asked “Captain, don’t you think there would be a safer way of doing this?”

His reply was “Newboy, if you’re worried about safety, you’re in the wrong line of work.”

Without question, much progress has been made since the days when we addressed firefighter safety with more lip service than deliberate consideration. I rarely, if ever, hear the old terms “Safety Nazi,” “Safety Spy” and “Safety-Schmafety.”

Most of us have embraced the concepts of department and incident safety officers, and we have formed health and safety committees within our organizations. The IAFC’s Safety, Health & Survival Section will soon celebrate its 10th anniversary as a section, and I applaud the great work they’ve done on behalf of our industry during that time.

Personally speaking, one of the things I’m most pleased with is the importance placed on health and wellness as a critical component of firefighter safety. One area I believe needs much more emphasis is the importance of fire prevention, public education and code enforcement as it relates to health and safety.

But with all the advancements in research, technology, PPE, apparatus and training, perhaps the one aspect of safety that still requires more attention is our culture.

In other words, best practices, training and equipment are only of benefit if the culture accepts, promotes and implements them. Serious thought, discussion and honest self-assessment is necessary to determine if our culture has a positive or negative impact in terms of safety.

International Fire/EMS Safety & Health Week is being observed June 14-20. This year’s theme is “Creating a Culture of Safety.”

It’s my hope that we all take the time to focus on and emphasize safety and health training. I encourage us all to seriously consider how we can do more to promote a culture of safety in our communities, in our departments and, most importantly, within ourselves.

G. Keith Bryant
President and Chairman of the Board

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