While the U.S. fire and emergency service has made inroads into reducing line-of-duty deaths over recent years—much of that progress stemming from the 16 Life Safety Initiatives—much work is still ahead.
The necessary cultural shifts and safety focuses don’t happen by chance or without the commitment of many within our service. In fact, the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section recently held its annual membership meeting at Fire-Rescue International in Atlanta and recounted many of its efforts undertaken to ingrain the safety culture within the fire service.
The section boasts a membership of over 1,000 IAFC members; nearly 10% of all IAFC members are also SHS Section members. This robust membership supports the initiatives and activities that are changing the U.S. fire service and beyond in accelerating a holistic culture of safety within the service. The section has worked diligently through the efforts of many who are faithful to reducing firefighter preventable injuries and death and promoting health and wellness within the service.
Perhaps the most notable effort has culminated in the section’s publishing of the Rules of Engagement for structural firefighting, aimed at safeguarding firefighters from harm and maximizing risk stratification. The section is pursuing training and textbook curriculum to disseminate the Rules of Engagement to the international firefighting services.
The section also coordinates the Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week, an annual stand down within the fire and emergency service aimed at coordinating safety and wellness education and preparation. These efforts are just a few in the forefront of section activities, as SHS is involved in countless initiatives, partnerships and energies aimed at preventing deaths and injuries and improving safety and wellness across the fire and emergency service.
All fire service professionals are dedicated to their core mission of helping others in times of need. But they recognize that firefighting is inherently a dangerous profession by its nature. Most all within the fire service have hedged their bets against danger in their personal lives through such mechanisms as homeowner’s insurance, car insurance and life and health insurance, to name a few.
Most fire service professionals have heard of the core value of “Everybody Goes Home,” a core commitment to ensure safety is paramount.
In our professional lives, honoring that commitment allows the furtherance of risk reduction, safety enhancement and preventability. The IAFC SHS Section is one of the leading groups focused on ensuring firefighter safety and survival, in concert with a host of partner organizations that share this common vision. This significant cultural, educational and service change can occur with unity of force within our service.
All who are reading this column and know the challenges we as a profession are confronted with in LODDs from such causes as cardiovascular issues, cancer, respiratory problems, fireground events and motor vehicle collisions also know that it requires committed support to develop meaningful strategies to confront these successfully.
Some half a century ago, an iconic U.S. President challenged Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
That same challenge rings true today within the fire and emergency service to all members with regards to their journey on a pathway of safety, wellness and survival. While no doubt all are engaged to varying extents with focuses on safety, wellness and prevention, no doubt more can be achieved.
As IAFC members engaged in all aspects that challenges today’s fire service, the tasks are many. However, safety is paramount not only to us personally but also to our colleagues and service members. I ask all to pause, take a moment and consider joining the other 1,000 members who have joined the efforts of the SHS Section in changing the fire service for the betterment of current and future generations- so that “all may go home!”
While some may see this as a pointed call for membership, safety apostles will no doubt see this as a call to arms—a call to arms for which our American fire and emergency service can be proud.
Todd LeDuc, MS, CFO, CEM, MIFireE, is an assistant fire chief for Broward County (Fla.) Sheriff Fire Rescue. He’s also a director at large for the Safety, Health and Survival Section.