Friday, August 14, 2015
Are We Taking Two Steps Forward and One Step Back?
Have you ever thought about the meaning of the words in the title of today's post? No? Well, try it. Pick two points in your home, in the firehouse, anywhere you choose. Now, walk with your regular gait and time how long it takes to travel from point A to point B. Easy, right? Now, do it again, but for every two steps forward, take one step backward, and time your journey again. Not so easy, eh? What was the difference in your times? Now, imagine living through your entire day, all your tasks, all your errands doing the same thing. For every two steps forward, you must take one step back!
The August 2015 edition of Firehouse® Magazine notes that seven firefighters died with the classification of LODD. Each and every one of these deaths was classified as an LODD. Not one was a fireground or apparatus/vehicular occurrence. The magazine also has an article about the NFPA’s latest report of LODD’s from 2014. All together, we lost sixty-four brothers in 2014. This made 2014 the third year in the last four where LODD’s were below sixty-five and it was a significant reductions from 2013 where we lost ninety-seven firefighters.
As good as that news is the problem lies in the fact that over half of the deaths in 2014 were caused by sudden cardiac/health events. This was the highest number of health-related LODD’s since 2008.
We have been on our Twitter account (@DalmatProd) for approximately six months now. And we have made firefighter health one of our top priority topics that we look for and write about. As a matter of fact, we are so concerned about this that the subject will play an important role in the television program that we are currently working to sell in Hollywood. Moreover, if you have read this blog before, you know how important it is to us and how often we write about it.
The question remains if we are doing enough to prevent these types of LODD’s. I have no doubt that each and every industry magazine addresses this issue from time to time. Many departments have taken the issue to heart (pardon the pun) and developed excellent fitness programs for their firefighters, both current and future. However, many of those departments are larger, urban and suburban companies that may have a fitness line item in their budget or perhaps, they applied for and received a SAFER grant specifically for this purpose.
Yet two key issues remain. The first is the difficulty in promoting this health initiative in smaller, more rural departments, most of them being volunteer departments. As it is, they are having a difficult enough time just recruiting and retaining volunteers. Now, we push this health initiative on them and they back off because they simply do not have the resources to do so.
The second issue is how do we “encourage” the firefighters, mostly on-call and volunteers, who have been members of their departments for several years or longer and over the course of time have gained significant weight or developed other health issues that could lead to a morbidity level? And what about officers and command staff, who sometimes feel that since they are not performing any physical exertion at calls, their health is not of concern and they should not have to abide by a department’s health standards.
The issue of firefighter health is well publicized; there is no doubt about that. And we have some of the best leaders in this country working their tails off to bring this message to the masses. So, the question remains how we raise the level of attention of our target audience?
As I thought about this very question, the proverbial light bulb went off. How bright it is, well, that’s for you to decide. Every fire department in this country is well aware of the NFPA, its purpose, its mandates, etc. While we all realize that some departments are financially unable to employ each NFPA mandate, they do try to do their best. Why? Because they know in their hearts and minds that the NFPA is working to keep firefighters as safe as possible. Whether it is the semaphores on apparatus, PPE, standards for SCBA, etc. they are looking out for the safety of every one of us and the citizens we protect.
What if we can find a way to create a union of the NFPA and either an existing organization or a new one, even a new sub-department of NFPA to carry this health message to the boots on the ground, so that they see it as the same way the majority see the other safety mandates from the NFPA. Perhaps if we can create a Committee of Firefighter Health & Wellness as an offshoot of the NFPA, our messages will stop falling on deaf ears. Or, at the least, find a larger audience.
However, I sincerely believe that this must come from us, the firefighters, current and former, the departments and our own organizations. I do not want to see governmental bureaucracy involved in this endeavor. We have the experience, we have the knowledge and we have the influence that we can put to work to save our lives.
The goal is simple: let’s give the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation the least amount of work to do. Let’s do our best to live by our motto: #EveryOneGoesHome.