Thursday, August 4, 2011

"In Sickness and In Health..."

There are several subjects I wanted to address in this post. First of all, we finally have the additional video that we shot in early spring at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Fire & Safety. I've reviewed it a few times and looks like it will add some better explanations, voice-overs, etc., to what we shot in San Francisco last year. I might be overly optimistic, but I could see the new "teaser-reel" being reading in the next 4-6 weeks. We'll be sure to post some snippets on the web site or Facebook in the near future.

(If you have an interest in the fire service and you're heading to South Florida, you should make a point of stopping by and visiting the museum

Whether active or retired, the four letters that no firefighter wants to hear, are LODD - Line of Duty Death. When this tragedy happens on the fireground, as happened in Worcester, MA, Pompey, NY, and Charleston SC, to name a few, the stories are usually spread all over the media. From the live reports of "Eyewitness News," to large, dark headlines in daily newspapers, the news of a firefighter or firefighters dying "in the line of duty," is all-too-often understood to mean that they died from the fire, or a collapse, entrapment, etc.

However, that understanding is actually a misunderstanding, for the majority of firefighter LODD that occur in this country often happen no where near a fireground or rescue scene. Instead, they happen in the firehouse, at home, at the gym, and other mundane locations. For many of these tragic losses might have been prevented if the person/people concerned had taken better care of themselves.

Look, we all agree that those of us in the fire service are the crazy ones - we run into a building everyone else is running out of. And we're also the ones ready to rush to someone's - anyone's aid, at the drop of hat. But who rushes to our aid? Who takes care of the firefighters who do not take care of themselves?

One of the leading industry magazines is "Firehouse," under the terrific leadership of long-time editor, Harvey Eisner. Each month's issue contains one dedication to firefighters who died in the line of duty and a second and separate listing of firefighters, rescue personnel, and affiliated civilians who died in the line of duty. And in almost every dedication or listing, the smallest number is attributed to an actual occurrence on the fireground. The rest are often either road accidents and/or personal health issues. And with nearly 70% of this country's life and property protect by volunteer or paid-on-call firefighters, the men and women dying are our neighbors and, God forbid, our family.

So, how are these deaths attributed to LODD? The actual standards are developed by government and professional organizations, such as the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). Thus, if a firefighters dies on the way to a call, on the way home, during the night after a call or a strenuous training exercise, etc., the death is classified as LODD. In a recent issue, a rescue responder, who had developed Hepatitis as a result of performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation more than a decade ago, was declared an LODD. But those type of attributions are few and far between. All too often, it happens either on the way to, or subsequent to, a training exercise or actual call.

And we, the firefighters and rescue personnel, are our own worst enemy. Because we will always make time ti help someone else, but we're too damned busy to take care of ourselves! We're told we have to lose weight, improve our conditioning, stop smoking, reduce stress, etc., but we're too busy to do so. And if today's American fire-rescue crews do not start taking better care of ourselves, our families, neighbors, and communities are going to suffer. Being a firefighter is not the once glorified job it used to be when I was a kid, or even ten years ago after 9-11 and the loss of our 343 brothers. Weeks later, fire departments across the country were swamped with applications. Yet today, with civil cut-backs, loss of benefits, both union and personal, and the ever-growing need for the heads-of-households to work two jobs each, the "job" isn't as attractive as it once was. And please, visit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at

It's time we take care of number one or we'll all be stepping in "number two."

Speaking of 9-11, it's hard to believe that the 10th anniversary is almost upon us. The pundits and "news" stations are already rolling the videotapes of that terrible day and it seems that after what this country just went through regarding our debt crisis, we should be ashamed of ourselves to look back and see our "loyalty" after that tragic time; flags fluttering from almost every vehicle and flying from homes and buildings. No "red"  or "blue" states, just one country of Red, White, and Blue!

Is history bound to repeat itself? Are we all going to be Americans for just one day, again and then return to our bickering and squabbling? Are we not greater than this? What will it take for us to join hands as a country again, and come together to govern and lead our country?

With that in mind, what are you going to do on September 11, 2011? There's a national organization you can check out, or check with your own communities to see what they are planning. At the very least, visit a local firehouse, whether it's on a shaded, rural road or in the heart of "Da Bronx," and say, "Thank you." Oh, and it wouldn't hurt if you also added, "And please take care of yourselves, too!"

A brief post-script here: A big "hello" to a great friend of mine from my early firefighting days in Guilford County, NC, Roger Brooks. Roger was one of three, rotating duty-men, who worked the 24/48 shifts. He's a great guy and was a terrific mentor to me. We were able to get together for the first time in nearly 20 years, a couple of weeks ago. He retired as a Captain, from the Greensboro Fire Department about three years ago. At his home, he showed me a beautiful "life-line" plaque, with every badge, stripe, and bugle he earned in his career in the fire service. But he also told me about a new project called, "The Thin Red Line." While it started by promoting the NC Fallen Firefighter Foundation, it has grown way beyond that. The thin red line represents us, the firefighters of your community, who always show up to face the "thin red line," and hold that line to the best of our ability, for as long as we can. Roger was kind enough to give me my first "Thin Red Line" wristband, and I've been wearing my own and passing new ones out to other firefighters or telling them about the project. For more information, visit Thanks, Roger!

Till next time....

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