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Firefighter Safety Requires Proper Attitude

No matter what your mom, dad, best friend, or lawyer tells you, somewhere along the line, you have to buy into your personal safety. You must be an active participant, concerned with staying out of harm’s way. This is a shared responsibility beginning with you and progressing up the chain of command to the Chief, with each higher rank bearing an even greater share of responsibility for themselves and their subordinates.

Firefighter safety requires PROPER ATTITUDE. You must be in the mindset that you will be alert and concerned for your own personal safety at all times, while complying with department policies, rules and training procedures, regardless of your own personal opinion. While concerned for your own safety, you will look out for and be aware of your fellow firefighters and their actions, and prevent them from performing unsafe acts. There may be some of you who may disagree; believing looking after others (as mentioned previously), is someone else’s responsibility. Wrong! If your fellow firefighter is doing something that can precipitate injury and/or death to himself/herself, and you stand by idly, you and others may become a casualty as a result of his/her unsafe act. Intervene to stop the unsafe act! We are all in this together and getting back home the way you showed up is what firefighter safety is all about. There is no better definition of firefighter safety!

There are those believers in the trenches who will try to convince you that firefighter safety has taken the aggressiveness out of firefighting. Safety is not, nor should be, a deterrent to aggressive firefighting. That is what we are all about. Aggressive firefighting can take place within the constraints of safety, and need not delay rescue and rapid knockdown. What it requires is a good size up, good command structure, and thinking before acting. Your personal size up and the incident commanders size up will indicate whether an aggressive offensive assault can be safely implemented, or if a defensive posture should be the initial game plan.

For many in the fire service, there exists a hidden bravado that firefighting is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous profession, and with that comes death and injuries. Not necessarily so! Will we eliminate all death and injury? Probably not in my lifetime, but we must continue to reduce the annual toll. It is long past time to deflate the bravado of the “most dangerous occupation." There have been many changes in the fire service relative to firefighter safety over the past dozen or so years and what they require is implementation and structured discipline to be effective. Talking about safety is not the same as practicing safety.

In the past, we have rung our hands, shed our tears, offered our apologies and chalked it up to the dangers of the job. In time, we would once again proceed down the same well-worn path, one that often led to injury and death, learning absolutely nothing from the previous incidents. When will we learn? When do we say, “Enough is enough!”? We can no longer boast and maintain a "macho" image that includes avoidable pain and suffering or injury and death as a result. The incidents of death and injury that were the result of poor or no training, lack of supervision, insufficient personnel, failure to use protective gear and equipment, no accountability, complacency, laziness and/or sheer stupidity, contribute to a needless annual toll. We may be considered America’s Heroes, but we don’t have to prove it by “shooting ourselves in the foot” to maintain the image, as some of our injuries and deaths may have been avoided.

Safety requires each of us to have the attitude to stay safe in all we do. We owe it to ourselves, our families, our department and the communities we serve.

Till next time, Stay Safe and God Bless!

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Henry CampbellSenior Correspondent

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