The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council are encouraging a focus on behavioral-health programs as part of "Saving Our Own … An Inside Job," the theme of the 2013 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week.
“Addressing behavioral health issues can only be done when we first acknowledge there is a problem, and we’ve been in collective denial as an industry for too long,” Hank Clemmensen said in a prepared statement. “Our responders are under unprecedented pressure, and it’s time we have some unprecedented conversations about how that impacts our health.”President
Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity June 16-22 to focus on safety and health training and education, allowing all shifts and personnel to participate. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend at least one day focusing on these critical issues.
National and international organizations have been focusing on behavioral health issues for the past several years, but they are still taboo in many departments. Safety and Health Week is an opportunity to start moving discussion, action, and resources to the local level.
“The mental and emotional well-being of our first responders is as important as their physical health,” NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg said in press statement. “It is time we recognize that these issues have a critical impact on health and safety, and ignoring this puts our personnel at risk. The fire service community needs to understand these issues and remove the barriers to meeting the behavioral health needs of personnel.”
The IAFC and NVFC have provided planning resources on the Safety and Health Week website, including those related to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Life-Safety Initiative No. 13, which addresses behavioral health issues within the fire service.