The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) have announced the theme for the 2014 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week: Train Like You Fight.
Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during the week of June 15-21 to focus on safety and health training and education. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend at least one day focusing on these critical issues.
Train Like You Fight
This year's campaign will focus on the critical nature of training in supporting responder safety and health. The theme captures two angles of responder safety:
- Safety on the training ground and reduction of training-related injuries and death
- The importance of adequate training to prepare for safe fireground operations
"This is a complex issue and the data we have only begins to tell the picture," says Chief Bill Metcalf, IAFC president and chairman of the board. "Current information looks only at clear-cut connections, where a responder or recruit goes down during or following training. It doesn't include the deaths related to long-term or repetitive exposures to hazards and unsafe training practices. Among the concerns is the growing number of responders with cancer."
The NFPA reports that over the 10-year period from 2001 through 2010, 11.3% of all on-duty firefighter deaths were training-related. The report paints a mixed and complex picture, with overall training deaths reaching a plateau but the share of training deaths increasing sharply as total line-of-duty death numbers decline. Additionally, while traumatic deaths during training are decreasing, deaths due to medical causes—notably cardiac incidents—are on the rise.
Recent studies have also shown an increased rate of many forms of cancer among firefighters, making safety precautions—such as the full and proper use of PPE during all activities including training—essential for firefighter safety. In addition to creating a safer training ground, reinforcing safe habits during training carries over to how personnel act on the fireground.
"Utilizing fire training programs that conform to the highest professional standards and operating a safe fire training ground at all times are two of the NVFC's priorities for health and safety," said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. "We need to make sure that personnel are using proper PPE and following all safety and health procedures and precautions at all times during training activities. Training is vital to firefighters and EMS personnel, and our job is dangerous enough without adding to it by being lax or unprepared during the very same activities designed to make us ready for the next call."
"The success of emergency-incident operations is a direct reflection of a commitment to training," said Chief Matt Tobia, chair of the IAFC's Safety, Health and Survival Section. "All habits, good and bad, are formed during training, so it's critical that our focus be on ensuring the highest quality opportunities possible for our most important resource—our responders."
The IAFC and NVFC have provided planning resources at SafetyAndHealthWeek.org.
Departments are encouraged to submit links to additional resources, articles and SOPs that can help other departments. Upload these resources using the form available on Safety and Health Week's Event Planning webpage.
Begin your planning now. For more information, visit Safety and Health Week online.
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more