Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Indeed, there is an epidemic sweeping through our fire service! It is called, "Invincibility Syndrome." What is that? It's the line of thinking that too many of our firefighters have today, "I've been doing this for years. Nothing is going to happen to me!" Or, "I'm a young guy/gal. I can do all this strenuous stuff. I passed the physicals. I'm fine. Nothing is going to happen to me."

How many of you who are reading this post, have felt this way, whether you have voiced it or not? You love the rush the adrenaline gives you when the bells ring or you're toned out. You jump aboard your rig or you drive to the station to meet the equipment. The driver pulls out of the bay, your lights flashing and siren(s) screaming. You finish securing your gear, grab your equipment, just hoping this one is "worker" and you can do your stuff. Right?
Listen, we've all felt that way. I doubt there isn't a firefighter, alive or passed, who didn't have that feeling course through them when the alarm sounded. However, you're wearing an "armor" with a chink in it. And that is, underneath your armor, you have a physical body that must react in its own way.

As firefighter morbidity reports indicate, while the total number of fatalities are down, a large percentage of those fatalities are due to preventable health reasons and to firefighters below the age of approximately, 55. Why? Why are we seeing this shift in our Line of Duty Deaths.

In my mind (and I speak only for myself) it is due to the fact that we honestly don't believe anything will happen to us on a call. And all too often, internally, we define that "call" as on the actual fireground itself. However, you could not be further from the truth! Many of our health-related LODD's are occurring after the call; after you're back home or back at the station and all tucked in for the night (or so you hope!)

Imagine what it is like at a station, when, at the going off-duty roll call, one of the firefighters is not there. Someone goes back to the bunk room, finds them unresponsive and calls out for help. That is exactly the scenario that has played out several times in the last year or so.
Or, you're a volunteer/on-call firefighter and when your pager goes off, you jump in your car, hit your lights (and siren, where allowed), and head down to the station. You believe you're driving responsibly, but there are other drivers who caught up with their audio books, phone calls, email and texting. One cuts in front of you, never even realizing you have the right of way and BAM! It may not have been your fault, but the results are the same, another LODD off the fireground.

And how many of you acknowledge that you might very well have one or two health problems, but you're afraid to say anything because you'll be put on light duty or taken off duty altogether, until you bring in a doctor's note that you're fine? Maybe you need to drop 10-15 pounds; maybe your BP has been running high for the last six consecutive months; or maybe you find yourself becoming winded way too soon than you used to?

Every month in FIREHOUSE(R) Magazine, Chief Billy Goldfeder, writes a terrific column, "CLOSE CALLS." And if you're the avid reader of his column like I am, you see just how quickly "routine" turns into "crap!" Most of the time, you don't have any idea it's heading that way, until you're already involved in it. If you want to see just how fragile you are as your perform this job that we all love, make it a habit to read this column every month.

Speaking of FIREHOUSE(R) Magazine, in the August 2016 issue, Chief Marc S. Bashoor of the Prince George's County Fire Department hits home in his "Chief Concerns" column, "LODD Reality Check." It is going to happen and when it does, all of us have to deal with it! 
 The ripples of an LODD travel far; far beyond just your department. The Chief's article presents the succinct reality of the procedural structure necessary to deal with this tragedy. 

It's imperative that you remember this - an LODD is like the first domino that falls, out of thousands. The first one falls and the rest do as well. We're often referred to as the "Bravest." To be honest, we often are. We do some crazy things that other folks wouldn't ever consider, no matter the circumstances. However, being the bravest does not mean we're the absolute best and that nothing will ever happen to us. Fire history has knocked that chip off of thousands of shoulders. 

In your own mind, you may deny that you have any problems that could affect your performance as a firefighter. However, bear in mind that the man/woman in the mirror knows all and see all. Moreover, he/she never lies! You are not invincible. You can be hurt. You can die. You don't casually cross an eight-lane interstate just to get to get to the other side. do you? So why would you jeopardize yourself or your comrades, if you know you have a health problem?

Remember this, no matter how popular you are in the firehouse, no matter how popular you are with your friends when you all hang out, not one of them wants to stand at your grave. Not one!

Stay safe and let's make sure that everyone does go home!