Fire Department, People, Tankers

Everyone Goes Home Is More Than A Slogan

Issue 3 and Volume 15.

“Everyone Goes Home” is a great slogan, but is also much more than that. It is also the title of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) outreach program designed to assist with efforts to reduce line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) and injuries.

It is the offshoot of a historic summit held in Tampa, Fla., in 2004 that attracted approximately 240 fire service professionals representing all of the major fire organizations and individuals committed to firefighter safety.

The attendees at the summit believed then and still believe that many, if not most, LODDs can be prevented with the right commitment and effort. The end result of the summit was the creation of 16 firefighter life safety initiatives (FLSIs), designed to be a roadmap toward changing significantly the number of LODDs and reducing the number of serious injuries. The 16 FLSIs are comprehensive and touch on all aspects of the fire service so that all avenues of potential improvement can be pursued.

The NFFF Everyone Goes Home program was developed through the use of grant funds provided by the federal government and the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Its primary function is to use the 16 FLSIs to develop methods that will improve firefighter safety. Within the Everyone Goes Home program are a number of other programs, including Courage to Be Safe (CTBS), a training program designed to change behaviors and cultures within fire departments.

The 16 FLSIs include references to the need for the development of national standards for emergency response policies and procedures. While the initiatives are comprehensive in addressing all of the risks facing firefighters, clearly the most significant aspect is responding to and returning from calls. 

Statistics continue to show that approximately 20 percent of all LODDs occur responding to or returning from emergencies. Further, many LODDs and serious injuries occur when firefighters do not buckle up. The use of seatbelts 100 percent of the time will reduce LODDs and serious injuries.

The Everyone Goes Home program is a sponsor and supporter of the Brian Hunton Seatbelt Pledge, which asks all firefighters to commit to the use of seatbelts all the time. The program is the product of the work done by Brett Batla and Dr. Burt Clark of the National Fire Academy. No one plans on a crash. Your best protection to reduce your risk of serious injury or death is to wear your seatbelt in case the unexpected happens.

One question that should be asked of every organization is, “Do you respond to every emergency the same way – lights and sirens on every vehicle?” If so, you need to reconsider. Not all emergencies are created equal. Some do not require an emergency response, and some might only require the first piece out the door to respond priority 1. By using common sense, you can reduce your exposure, creating fewer opportunities for incidents.

There are programs available for priority dispatching, and they have proven to be successful. This is an example of establishing policies that support safer responses. At some point, all organizations need to decide risk versus benefit issues. How often do automatic alarms produce hostile fire conditions requiring a lights-and-siren response? Could you reduce the risk by only responding the first vehicle priority 1? Your organization needs to answer these questions and decide accordingly.

One of the 16 initiatives states, “Safety must be a primary consideration in the design of apparatus and equipment.” The industry is very good at providing the safety features requested by the fire service. Everyone needs to factor safety considerations into every purchase they make.

Engineering Safety

In many ways safety can be “engineered” into a product. While this does not always guarantee safety, it does offer some protection. For example, guards on saws reduce the chances of firefighters getting hurt by a kickback. Safety items also allow for more margin of error, so that if a mistake is made, the consequences are not as severe.

Consider the potential of airbags to protect firefighters in the event of an “unplanned” crash. Clearly, the odds of suffering a serious injury or LODD in an unfortunate event such as this are greatly reduced.
Even with improvements in the design of apparatus and equipment, there is a need for all firefighters to pay attention to another life safety initiative – improvement in personal accountability. Firefighters need to accept the fact that safety items are in place for their benefit and use apparatus and equipment accordingly.

Protecting Ourselves

We mentioned seatbelts, but because we continue to see incidents where seatbelts were not used and would have made a difference, it is worth mentioning again. Seatbelts are provided to protect firefighters, who must use them or be held accountable by officers and by other firefighters. This applies to all safety items incorporated into the design of apparatus and equipment.

I don’t believe for a minute that anyone intentionally does something to get hurt, or worse. We are in a business that sometimes is dangerous. We need to do what we can to protect ourselves and our co-workers to reduce the risk of something bad happening.

With few exceptions, serious injuries can be attributed to carelessness, a lack of situational awareness, inadequate training, inadequate skill practice and repetition to ensure competence during stressful times, or cockiness. The firefighters either did not have the necessary knowledge and/or experience or they didn’t practice the safe operating procedures. Improved competence and continual vigilance will reduce the number of injuries and LODDs and help make sure that “Everyone Goes Home.” 

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Editor’s Note: Richard Marinucci is chief of the Northville Township (Mich.) Fire Department. He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (Mich.) Fire Department in 2008, a position he had held since 1984. He is a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and past chairman of the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In 1999 he served as acting chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months. He holds three bachelor’s degrees in fire science and administration and has taught extensively.

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