By Daniel B.C. Gardiner
Fire departments across the U.S. will be gathering again this Memorial Day to honor our nation’s armed forces. We also remembered those of our own ranks, members of the fire service, whom have lost their lives fighting fire, or whom have passed away due to other circumstances.
Without any notice and little objection, Memorial Day also has become a day on which we disregard NFPA 1500. In many places, fire departments will crowd the exterior of their fire apparatus with firefighters and transport them to the starting point of the parade route. Firefighters cover the apparatus like ants on a discarded candy bar. The majority of thesefire fighters will not be safely seated let along seatbelted.
Another violation of firefighter safety and health that will occur is the total disregard for acoustic trauma. This phenomenon refers to a sudden permanent or temporary hearing loss related to a brief exposure to the noise of an explosion, siren, or air horn. Hundreds of pieces of fire apparatus will be blasting their way down different Main Streets this Memorial Day, giving nearby spectators as well as the firefighters in the line of march, a good dose of acoustic trauma.
Perhaps people are confused about the meaning of Memorial Day and associate it with the joy of the Fourth of July celebration — therefore all the noise!
Renowned ear, throat and nose specialist Dr. Thomas Coffey first mentioned the ill effects of sirens and horns producing acoustic trauma, when I started to experience temporary hearing loss. He strongly supports the position of no sirens or air horns during a parade. That advice was tendered over 15-years ago when I was President of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association. I did my best at that time to spread the word. Unfortunately we still will have people ignoring this simple safety precaution and blast their way down the parade route.
Firefighter hearing loss is a serious problem; adding a parade to the list of hazards we face is just not using your head!
Daniel B.C. Gardiner retired as chief of Fairfield (Conn.) Fire-Rescue, serving in all ranks within the department for more than 30 years. He is a past president of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association as well as a past President of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. He currently serves on two NFPA technical committees: Standard for Providing Fire and Emergency Services to the Public (NFPA 1201), and Recommended Practice in Fire and Emergency Services Organization Risk Management (NFPA 1250).