Officers July 28, 2015
by Sandy Davis,
(Ret. Chief Safety Officer, Shreveport, LA, Fire Dept.)
An Open letter to Fire Department Safety
Brother and Sister Safety Officers,
I know many of you personally, as I spent 12 years on the Board of Directors for FDSOA and I have spoken at conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada for many years. I count several of you as close personal friends. Although I officially retired from the fire service several years ago I will never really retire from my passion for firefighter health and safety.
I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer just over two years ago. More likely than not my cancer is job related as my life style is not conducive to cancer and there is no history of cancer in my family. Over the past two years I have spent way more time in doctor’s offices, hospitals and cancer centers than you can imagine. I have been through radiation therapy, surgery and chemo therapy. I have a permanent colostomy and will be on some type of chemo therapy for the remainder of my life. But do not feel sorry for me; I have been and will continue to be significant with my life.
I would like to share with you what is on my heart in reference to the Heath and Occupational Safety of the firefighters that we are responsible for as Safety Officers. The concept of Safety Officers is about thirty years old in our chosen vocation, having come to the forefront in the mid 1980’s. As the Safety Officer matures into an adult, if you think of the Discipline as if it were a human, so must the way we approach the responsibility of the position in a more mature manner.
When the Safety Officer position was young we thought of the simple things that impacted the health and safety of our members; and in most cases we have been successful in reducing accident, injury and fatalities that come from that low hanging fruit. In fact I truly believe that we have seen a change in the fire service to where we now embrace a culture of safety for the most part.
So where do we go from here as the discipline matures? I believe the answer to that is that we must–I repeat must–start to think about the bigger picture. What is that bigger picture you ask? The bigger picture is the overall health and welfare of our firefighters. We have successfully gotten them to wear seatbelts, we have them using spotters to assist in backing apparatus up, we have them wearing P.P.E. (for the most part, I will address that later in this letter) so now is the time that we begin to look at that bigger picture.
Brothers and Sisters, this will not be an easy task as it will require a totally new look at our safety culture. We won’t be addressing those issues that bring instant gratification, but those that may not show rewards for decades to come. We live in a society that has made us think in terms of what can happen for me instantly; we can get a four course meal from the driver’s seat of our car in ninety seconds, we can chat with a friend half way around the world in real time and we can get information on any subject at our fingertips instantly. With that capability we have become less interested in things that may take time to show results. I challenge you to take a few minutes to think about what I am about to share with you and ask yourself, do I want to be “Successful” or do I want to be “Significant.” Success may only last a lifetime, significant can and will go on for generations.
So how do we make a significant impact? It will come when you embrace, as my good friend Janet Wilmoth calls it, a “whole-listic” approach to our responsibilities as Safety Officers. We must start to address those things that have a long term impact of Firefighter Health and Welfare. This will not be easy but it will be rewarding–no instant gratification here, but the satisfaction of knowing you have been significant.
These things include, but are not limited to:
Tobacco Cessation- Tobacco use is down in the fire service but still much too prevalent; many of the cases of Heart/Lung Diseases and Cancer can be attributed to tobacco use.
Nutrition- The fire service may have some of the worst eating habits known to man; large volumes consumed as if it were our last meal. A more healthy approach to the way we prepare and cook our meals needs to be addressed.
Regular Physical Examinations – Had I gone for a colonoscopy when my doctor recommended it I may have been able to catch my cancer early enough to have avoided the need for major intervention. Many of the diseases we experience in the fire service can be treated and controlled if we are able to catch them early; regular physical examinations are the answer.
Exercise – Even the slightest amount of exercise can make a huge difference in our firefighters’ health and welfare. You do not have to spend hours in the gym to get positive results from exercise.
Wearing Personal Protective Equipment – Every incident. EVERY INCIDENT. Eye protection, gloves and mask where appropriate on EMS calls. Full bunker gear and SCBA until the fire is completely out, including overhaul operations.
I truly believe that if I had worn my P.P.E., particularly my SCBA, more diligently that I might have avoided my colorectal cancer.
P.P.E. may be uncomfortable and hot, however you do not want to wear the P.P.E. that I now have. My P.P.E. now involves sitting in a chair at the Cancer Center for six hours at a stretch connected to a cocktail of medicines that takes your body and slams it to the point that you can’t even get out of bed some days.
My other P.P.E. is a colostomy bag that I will wear 24/7 for the rest of my life. My cancer required the removal of my lower digestive system from my descending colon to the “exit”; if you know what I mean.
Wear Your P.P.E.!!!!!!
Addressing and enforcing these won’t necessarily make you the most popular person on your department, however if you became a Safety Officer to win a popularity contest you might want to rethink your choice.
Do not feel sorry for me because of my cancer instead go out and make a difference; and think about me when you do.
In closing I want to encourage you to attend the FDSOA Annual Safety Forum, September 21-25, at the Double Tree Suites in Fort Lauderdale Florida. This Forum not only gives you the opportunity to hear from some of the most recognized fire service Health and Safety Subject Matter Experts, but just as importantly to have the chance to network with the practitioners that are making a difference daily in the Health and Safety of our Brothers and Sister.
Sandy Davis, (Ret.) Chief Safety Officer,
Shreveport, LA, Fire Department
Safety Health Week Webinar Links
Tuesday June 16th, Functional Fitness https://iafcevents.webex.com/iafcevents/lsr.php?RCID=ce1945f84161406a88061acbe72b165e
Thursday June 18th, NFFF Vulnerability Assessment Program (VAP). https://iafcevents.webex.com/iafcevents/lsr.php?RCID=5dfeed0d53a540caade351ba82aef8c7
Safety and Health Week Quiz Sweepstakes
The National Fire Protection Association, in coordination with the International Association of Fire Chiefs and National Volunteer Fire Council www.nvfc.org is hosting an online Safety and Health Week quiz www.nfpa.org/fireservicequiz that reinforces the messages behind this year’s theme, “Creating a Culture of Safety.”
Check out these webinars hosted by the IAFC, featuring content from its Safety, Health & Survival Sections We hope you can join us!
This month, the IAFC will feature webinars by the SHS Section in honor of Safety Week.
Two live webinars will be held during International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, June 14-20, to help fire and EMS personnel Create a Culture of Safety. The IAFC and the National Volunteer Fire Council sponsor Safety and Health Week annually to encourage fire and EMS personnel to focus on health and safety education and training.
Fundamentals of Firefighter Functional Fitness
Tuesday, June 16, 11 AM ET (1 hour)
Functional fitness is a key component in an overall health and wellness program for firefighters. Heart attacks are the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths, and focusing on proper fitness and nutrition is critical to reducing your risks and enhancing your abilities as a first responder. The webinar will offer suggestions on how departments can ensure all firefighters are physically ready for the next call.
Understand the impact that health-related LODDs continue to have on the American fire service
• Understand the term functional fitness and why it’s important to firefighters
• Describe the primary functional movements and fitness components important to firefighters
• Apply various functional exercises and movements to improve functional fitness
Presented by Dan Kerrigan, Assistant Fire Marshal/Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, East Whiteland Township Department of Codes and Life Safety, and Jim Moss, Lieutenant, Metro West Fire Protection District
Sign Up Now
|Fire Service Vulnerability Assessment Program|
|Thursday, June 18, 7 PM ET (1 hour)This webinar will review the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s (NFFF) Fire Service Vulnerability Assessment Program (VAP). This risk assessment tool is designed to help fire departments reduce and manage their risks to prevent firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries.Presented by Victor Stagnaro, Director of Fire Service Programs, NFFF and JoEllen Kelly, VAP Administrator, NFFF|
International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week takes place June 14-20, 2015. This year’s theme is Creating a Culture of Safety. Members of the fire and emergency services are encouraged to use this week to focus on safety and health training and what you can do to create a culture of safety in your community, your department, and for yourself.
Get Your Free Health Screening at FRI
The SHS Section is proud to partner with Life Scan to offer health assessments, including ultrasound imaging of the heart (echocardiogram) and aorta (detection of aneurysms).
Reserve your spot today! Email email@example.com to sign up for your free health screening.
Plus, enter to win! Life Scan will give away two full NFPA 1582-compliant physicals. Winner will receive airfare to Tampa Bay and a two-night hotel stay to complete the physical.
More on FRI 2014 here…
The NIOSH Division of Safety Research has released a new website entitled Fire Fighter Fatality Map. Developed to increase awareness of fire fighter deaths and to provide quick access to up-to-date fire fighter fatality information, the site combines fire fighter fatality case information from the USFA with information about NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigations. Links to NIOSH reports for fatalities that have been investigated through the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) are included.