Our Daily Risks
During the past few weeks within the greater metro area of New York there have been two incidents involving cranes that have claimed the lives of 3 civilians who were going about their daily routine. The first was a crane collapse in lower Manhattan on February 5 in which an individual on his way to work was struck by the toppling crane and killed. In Hanover, New Jersey on February 18 a crane was being operated to lower a 5 ton generator into position at the site of a newly constructed firehouse when a strap(s) gave way dropping the generator. Two workers below who were guiding the crane operator in positioning the generator were killed. It was reported the crane operator was the father-in-law of one of the men killed.
How many other people may have been killed in freak accidents over the same period? Can one prepare for either of these incidents? For the most part you can’t, but further investigation by police, the Labor Department, and other investigating authorities may find a cause. It won’t change the results for the deceased. A variety of incidents that can exceed our imagination occur with frequency across our country each and every day that is impossible to plan for and resulting in injury and death. Fate, destiny, or being in the right place at the wrong time, or, as some say, in the wrong place at the right time.
There have been and will continue to be firefighter fatalities within the ranks of the fire service where fate plays a similar unpreventable role. It is the preventable deaths within the fire service that we are trying to eliminate. From the day a new firefighter enters the ranks it is drilled into their heads that whenever we are faced with a life challenging decision we are to weigh the risk versus the potential gain. If the risk exceeds the gain we should not place one’s life in jeopardy, yet there are times when a firefighter will take that great risk and be successful in accomplishing their objective. There also will be times when one will fail and it will cost them their life. How far can one push the risk envelope in attempting to save a life? A very difficult question to answer, as evaluating the risks involved can be very complicated because we all don’t perceive the same issues (risks) that may be involved.
In our daily duties we should operate under the umbrella of safety in order to reduce the toll of injuries or deaths. You should check and maintain your equipment on a daily basis, train and encourage additional training for yourself and your fire company, use a seat belt each time you are riding in the apparatus. If you are responsible for driving the apparatus check it daily, you are responsible for all on board. If you are the officer, it is your responsibility to oversee that the assigned daily routine work and training is being done. It all has to do with the safety of the firefighters. It is easy to overlook much of the daily equipment checks and seemingly mundane tasks, but when a SCBA malfunctions, a power tool fails to operate or the apparatus brakes fail at a critical moment it could lead to injury or death. How often do we take shortcuts and or deviate from how we have been trained? Each time we do we are taking a risk, and for the most part we don’t even see it as a risk, it may have become routine and replaced, in our mind, the original safe method.
Heart attacks are the leading cause of firefighter deaths annually, averaging over 50% of LODD’s. Firefighters should maintain a healthy life style staying in good physical and medical condition. Exercise and maintain your weight to stay in good physical condition. Hopefully you never smoked, or have had the courage to give up smoking. If there is one great contributor to many health issues, it is without a doubt cigarette smoking
The basics must not be forgotten or overlooked when it comes to firefighter safety.
You are responsible for your personal safety along with your fellow firefighters and officers. You owe it to them and your family to return from each call in good health.
Till next time, Stay Safe and God Bless!