Prompted by the nearly 100 firefighter fatalities annually, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in 2004 held a national summit specifically aimed at reducing preventable line-of-duty deaths and disabilities. The summit yielded the 16 Life-Safety Initiatives, aimed at reducing those numbers over the next decade.
LODDs continue to trend downward. The progress is no doubt due to cultural changes, safety awareness, enhancements in technology and personal protective equipment, and better tactics and strategy understanding. However, the fire service continues to lose personnel to cardiovascular illiness and its associated complications.
Recently I had the opportunity to collaborate in a health-and-wellness national study funded by a FIRE Grant. The results really opened my eyes. The vast majority of our career firefighters are obese, and most of those have hypertension and lipid levels that would suggest that they were perfect candidates for the development of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Many of our remaining LODDs and injuries occur in motor-vehicle collisions — and surely are preventable. Most could have been prevented by departments enforcing seatbelt use, avoiding excessive speeds and coming to complete stops at intersections. So why did we continue to avoid such simple tenets?
A new year is a perfect time to re-evaluate your efforts to prevent these preventable LODDs. Look at your own personal wellness and fitness — trim some weight, enhance your diet and add some fitness. In the fire service, it is a matter of life and death for not just yourself but others on the fireground. I just read a report on obesity in the U.S. military, and those being discharged who could not meet their fitness standards. This is an epidemic, and our line-of-duty statistics bear that out. Make a change now and lead by example.
Finally, as engineers and company officers, hold ourselves accountable to roadway safety. Simple actions as the entire crew being belted in before the apparatus rolls and traveling at safe speeds and observing full stops clearing all intersections. The lives saved may not only be your crew, but that of others on the roadway!