Safety & Health: The Silent Fire Service Heroes
Safety from fire should not be a topic for discussion during only 1 or 2 weeks of the year. It is definitely a year-round public responsibility. I believe that the highest state and municipal officials must assume greater responsibility for leadership in this field.We in the federal government can give aid within the framework of existing agencies. But the impetus must come from the states and from every community and every individual in the land. ~ Harry S. Truman
These words, spoken by President Harry Truman as he opened the Conference on Fire Prevention, May 5, 1947, are as true today as they were back then. Fire prevention is an everyday occurrence that must be taken seriously by every fire chief and fire department in this nation, not just a once-a-year event.
And not surprisingly, fire prevention has a direct connection to the safety and survival of all of your members, not just the public you’re sworn to protect. Probably the most overlooked Life Safety Initiative (LSI) and their direct link to firefighter safety and survival are LSI 14: Public Education and LSI 15: Code Enforcement & Sprinklers.
While a number of reasons could be given as to why the tailboard firefighter may not relate to these LSIs as they do to the other 13, LSI 14 and LSI 15 are nonetheless just as important. In fact, an argument can be made that they’re more so than any other listed.
But how can these be that important when they are may not really impact the average firefighter each day?
Well, it would be safe to say that the folks who do fire prevention and fire-code enforcement save more lives than anyone who rides backwards on a fire apparatus. Dramatic and heroic things can take place when you’re crawling into an immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) environment to slay the dragon and pull the sweet baby girl from the clutches of death.
But have you ever had to face a classroom of preschoolers or kindergarteners and keep their attention?
Or have you ever had to face off with business developers who think all regulations are imposed by Communistic governments? Who think you’re one of their brown-shirt members because you want them to install a fire-alarm system or retrofit their building with fire sprinklers, all the while threatening to get the job of the fire inspector because “they know someone at city hall?”
Those in fire prevention and fire-code enforcement, my friends, are the silent heroes of the American fire service. Now, I’m not being disrespectful or diminishing the actions of the firefighter and what they do every day unselfishly and without hesitation.
Rather, what I’m saying is that the next time you hold your department’s awards ceremony, the ones who should get the life-saving awards are the fire inspectors and fire-prevention personnel.
I know it may be blasphemous to some to speak about fire prevention being equal or superior to fire operations. But better people than me have spoken about the importance of fire prevention and code administration for a very long time. These comments can be traced back not only to the Truman administration, but also to the various Wingspread conferences, American Burning documents and a number of other national fire-safety conferences, documents, decrees and treatises.
And now Vision 20/20 has taken up the mantle to continue the fight for reducing fires in the United States in order to save lives. The work of Vision 20/20 to make community risk reduction a mainstream of the American fire service is phenomenal. Their actions have again elevated fire prevention and fire safety to being equal partners to suppression operations, thus combating fires on the front end so you don’t have to combat them on the back end.
So you can add to your community risk reduction program, you have access to all the work they’ve done through their Strategic Fire website.
But why are LSI 14 and LSI 15 part of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives?
Quite simply, the better job we do of educating our citizens about not having a fire in the first place, the better job we do of making sure our firefighters are not put in harm’s way due to an uncontrolled fire.
All of the LSIs have a purpose of changing the culture of our fire service. That is, they’re designed to make sure that the health, wellness, safety and survival or our members is paramount in everything we do. We can better deliver our service everyday by making sure our folks return home when their duty is done. And whether we’re a paid or a volunteer department, our responsibility as a chief officer is our members’ welfare.
Fire prevention and fire codes won’t put a fire department out of business; accidental fires will still happen. But we can help ourselves do better in making sure our members don’t find themselves in an LDH environment, where their lives can be put at a greater risk.
So today, do something really good and go hug a fire inspector. The life they save may be yours!
Scott Kerwood, PhD, CFO, EFO, CFPS, CEMSO, FM, FIFireE, CEM, is the fire chief of Hutto (Texas) Fire Rescue and chair of the Safety, Health & Survival Section board. He has been a member of the IAFC since 1988.
We’ve all heard the excuses:
- I am in great health.
- I have no symptoms.
- Physicals don’t matter; my friend got a clean bill of health and then dropped dead as he walked out of the doctor’s office.
We also have many reports of physicals saving a person’s life by finding something that can be treated successfully. I have personal experience with this. During an annual fire department physical, the doctor found a problem with my thyroid. I received treatment involving medication and thyroid removal. Thankfully, my fire department physical caught this disease early enough so it never affected my career and enabled early treatment of a potentially life-threatening problem. My annual physical saved my life; it worked for me.
In 2006, the Safety, Health & Survival Section (SHSS) conducted a fire department survey on firefighter physicals; in 2016, we repeated the survey to see if improvements were made related to firefighter physicals.
In 2006, we received 1,824 responses to the survey; in 2016 we received more than 9,000 responses. This increased response rate can be explained in two ways.
First, we did a better job of getting the survey in front of and engaging firefighters to respond to the survey. Second, and more importantly, the fire service is more focused on firefighter health.
This article analyzes the latest response data and compares it to the 2006 data.
Who Gets a Firefighter Physical?
Table 1: Does your fire department require annual physicals for:
Table 1 shows data on who receives physicals within a fire department. The results provide both good and not-so-good news.
Compared to the 2006 data, the 2016 responses show a substantial increase in the number of departments that require physicals for fully career departments and primarily career with volunteer departments, with a smaller increase in volunteer departments with career firefighters. This is good news.
In contrast, there was a decrease in the number of fully volunteer departments requiring physicals. This is not-so-good news.
Table 1 also identified a number of departments that don’t require, recommend or provide annual physicals. The results parallel the data above. The number of fully career departments and primarily career with volunteer departments both showed a decrease in the number of departments not requiring physicals. Primarily volunteer with career departments and fully volunteer departments saw numbers that indicate fewer of these departments are working to ensure their firefighters get annual physicals.
Why is this occurring with so many organizations talking about health and safety issues? Are we having a problem getting the information to the latter two groups? Is it a financial consideration? Is it a fire service cultural issue?
The more positive results for career and career with volunteer departments may be attributable to strong union initiatives driving these departments to execute health-monitoring programs, such as annual physicals.
What standards are used to conduct a firefighter physical?
Table 2: What standards do the medical professionals performing the physicals use? Please select all that apply.
The data from Table 2 shows that firefighter physicals differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A key takeaway from this data, found across all categories of departments, is a migration away from locally established criteria for physicals.
Additionally, the survey provided information that should raise concerns about the efficacy of the NFPA 1582 physicals. In all the categories, more departments use the IAFC/IAFF Wellness Fitness Initiative as the bases for annual physicals rather than the NFPA 1582.
Lastly, in 2016, we asked if firefighters knew what standard was being used for the annual physical; no such question was asked in 2006. The results indicated that a substantial number of survey participants didn’t know.
Have we made progress in providing behavioral health care?
Table 3: Does your physical include a mental-health component that would identify post-traumatic stress or other significant mental-health issues?
In 2006, we saw that 91% of the departments performing annual physicals didn’t have a mental-health component. Since then, we’ve become more aware of the effects of post-traumatic stress, bullying and substance abuse.
In 2006, we challenged fire departments to incorporate a simple and effective mental-health screening process into the annual physical. Unfortunately, the 2016 survey data shows only a slight improvement. The number of respondents saying their physicals don’t includes a mental-health component means that the fire service over the last 10 years has done very little to address mental-health evaluation during an annual physical.
Anecdotally, departments created many programs, such as peer support, hotlines and counseling units, but these programs require the firefighter to take the first step. We still need a screening tool the physician conducting the annual physical can use to identify potential underlying mental-health issues.
This is no different than running a blood test to identify medical issues. Determining physical- and mental-health issues during an exam can save a firefighter’s life and provide the necessary interventions to improve the firefighter’s job performance.
Who provides a firefighter physical?
Table 4: Who performs your physicals? Please select all that apply.
We see a movement away from the use of local physicians or medical professionals. More departments are using occupational health-service groups or physicians with knowledge of and experience with firefighter health and safety issues as compared with the 2006 data.
While a local physician may be more cost-effective or the only act in town, if that physician doesn’t understand the job-performance criteria of a firefighter and the firefighting work environment, the physician is at a disadvantage in making decisions about a firefighter’s ability to do the job.
Does every department, career and volunteer, have written job descriptions for firefighters that define the scope of what’s expected from firefighters? If so, does your department furnish this job description to physicians or occupational health services?
The Role of the Primary Care Physician
Table 5: Do you have a personal primary care physician?
Table 6: Does your PPCP physical include a mental-health component that would identify post-traumatic stress or other significant mental-health issues?
The data in Tables 5 and 6 are new to the 2016 survey.
Across the board, approximately 80% of firefighters have their own personal primary-care physician (PPCP). When surveyed about whether the PPCP would be able to identify post-traumatic stress or significant mental-health issues, over 85% in all categories said no.
Our challenge now, is to ensure that all firefighters—interior, exterior, drivers—receive an annual medical physical. We must work to guarantee that the physical meets the generally accepted standard of the fire service. Physicals need to be performed by qualified physicians knowledgeable about the firefighter’s job.
We all agree that LODDs are unacceptable, especially when we have the means to prevent many of these deaths by providing an annual physical. Since 2014, SHSS has focused on firefighter health, including hosting annual Firefighter Physicals Summits. Annual physicals are the best way to detect potentially life-threatening medical conditions.
We can’t guarantee that every medical issue will be identified; we also can’t guarantee that a firefighter will be cured forever. We do know that early detection can save lives, making it more likely a firefighter will be able to return to work.
More importantly, with annual physicals, more firefighters will be able to live longer, more fruitful lives with their family and friends.
What are you going to do to get all your firefighters an annual physical? Remember, we must guarantee that Everyone Goes Home.
David Fischler, J.D., CFO, was Commissioner of the Suffolk County (N.Y.) Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services and is a former chief-of-department for the St. James Fire Department. He has been an active member of the Safety, Health & Survival Section since its inception. He’s been a member of the IAFC since 1976.
Request for best practices at rail incidents!
Have you responded to a train derailment? What about a rail incident with a hazardous materials leak or fire? Did you feel prepared, or overwhelmed? Whether you’ve experienced a large or small scale rail event, we want to hear from you! CSX Transportation has partnered with the IAFC’s HazMat Center to gather planning and operational best practices used during rail incidents. The IAFC is looking for your advice or perspective in what you believe are the top 5 to 10 planning or operational activities that a department can implement to have a successful response and recovery effort during a rail incident.
Please provide the following information to the IAFC point of contact, James Rist at email@example.com - your department name, city and state, indication of what type of incident you responded to, as well as the top 5 to 10 best practices you would recommend. Thank you for your time and helping shape both this best practices effort as well as future IAFC rail planning and training events. Visit the HAZMAT Fusion Center site @ http://www.hazmatfc.com/ALERT
2017 Apparatus Specification & Maintenance Symposium
FDSOA, presents the 29th Annual Apparatus Specification & Maintenance Symposium
January 16-18, 2017
Sunday January 15th Pre-Cons:
Basics of Specifications Writing (4hrs) with Mike Wilbur and Tom Shand
Fire Pump and Accessories with Proper Pump Testing with Brian Brown
(Apparatus Symposium ends at Noon on Wednesday, January 18th)
Attorney Neil Rossman to keynote at FDSOA
Neil Rossman, the attorney who handled the landmark case against a fire truck manufacturer in 1985 and changed fire truck designs forever, will be the keynote at the Fire Department Safety Officers Association’s annual Apparatus Symposium and Safety Forum, Tuesday, January 17th, 2017, in Orlando, Florida.
Thirty-five years ago, Firefighter Joseph Tynan, Jr., fell off a fire engine in Brookline, Mass. Rossman, a former firefighter, took the case of the permanently disabled Tynan because it was too common for firefighters to be hurt from the open-cab design of fire trucks. In 1985, a Boston jury found the Wisconsin fire truck manufacturer liable for Mr. Tynan’s injuries. The impact was revolutionary on the industry and within a year fire trucks were radically re-designed.
Neil Rossman is a partner in the law firm of Rossman & Rossman and specializes in Superior Court trials involving medical malpractice, products liability and personal injury. He was a firefighter in the U.S. Army while on active duty and a professional firefighter for 6-1/2 years with the Swampscott, Mass., Fire Department. He has spoken over 45 times to fire service groups in the United States and Canada about fire service liability and firefighter occupational safety and health.
Rossman will be presenting during the Apparatus Symposium. The Apparatus Symposium and the Safety Forum will be co-located at the Wyndham Orlando Resort on I-Drive, Orlando, Florida. The Apparatus Symposium, January 16-18, will feature apparatus and ambulance specification and maintenance topics.
FDSOA’s Annual Apparatus Symposium is the only conference dedicated to providing a better understanding of fire apparatus and ambulances to the emergency services industry. Presentations from leading industry figures, as well as apparatus and equipment manufacturers, provide the attendee with a wide range of factual data. Breakout sessions and networking events provide a forum for sharing personal experiences with your peers. Last year’s event had 350+ attendees. We expect even more this time!
Fees (same as 2016)
General Attendee Registration Fees:
Wyndham Orlando Resort I-Drive
2016 – 2018 IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section Strategic Initiatives
Developed January 18th, 2016 at the winter SHS Board Meeting Scottsdale AZ
1) Create a National Fire Service Health and Safety Alliance to work with other fire service organizations to address firefighter safety issues.
1A. Identify key participating organizations.
1B. Convene a National stakeholder gathering of participating organizations that were
1C. Identify key areas of consensus for collaboration.
1D. Identify joint implementation strategies.
2) Develop a process to enable every firefighter to obtain an NFPA 1582 compliant physical assessment on an annual basis.
2A. Identify stakeholders to develop partnerships for providing NFPA 1582 Physicals to
2B. Identify obstacles preventing firefighter from receiving NFPA 1582 physicals.
2C. Develop a tiered physical assessment process.
2D. Work with Research that is being conducted in order to educate physicians and fire
3) Provide our membership with “value” for being a Section Member.
3A. Develop a mechanism to better identify section members for participation in section
initiatives and activities.
3B. Develop a “new member” kit to be distributed to new section members.
3C. Provide Section members with exclusive FRI engagement opportunities.
3D. Develop a multi-level safety and wellness repository of research and best practices
available to Safety and Health Section members only.
4) Improve our marketing and communication strategy to reach the entire fire service.
4A. Expand our portfolio of communication tools (i.e. web page, social media) used in
4B. Develop a template to be used in the distribution of key safety messages.
4C. Establish and / or leverage relationships with fire service affinity groups in an effort to
expand our audience base.
4D. Continue to maneuver and refine / sharpen our brand to become synonymous with
4E. Develop and implement an evaluation system capable of providing the Board of
Directors with feedback on the initiative.
5) Develop a comprehensive health and wellness process including physical fitness and behavioral health.
5A. Develop partnerships with stakeholder for the development of a comprehensive Health
and Wellness program.
5B. Identify barriers preventing departments from implementing a comprehensive Health and Wellness program.
5C. Develop a model comprehensive Health and Wellness program.
5D. Educate the fire service about the need for a comprehensive Health and Wellness
1 pm – 4 pm
Room 206 A
Meeting called to order by Chair Chief Kerwood
(Chair will adjust the order of the agenda as guests, award recipients and association officers arrive.)
Roll call of the Board of Directors
Election results Battalion Chief Carol Brown
Administration of the oath of office by Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr (1:10 pm)
Recognize SHS Section Supporters – Chief Kerwood
Report of the Chair – Chief Kerwood
Report of the Vice Chair – Chief Sullivan
Report of the Treasurer – Chief Rhoades
Report of the Secretary – Chief LeDuc
Report of the International Director - Chief Goldfeder
Reports on Section Projects
- SafetyStandDown Week Chief Kane
- NFPA 1582 Physicians Guide Chief LeDuc
- OSHA – NACOSH Chief Tobia
- Health & Wellness Pavilion Chief Oke
- NFPA 1917 Standard Chief Morris
- CRM Manual Chief Tippett
- CAAS Ambulance Standard Chief Morris
- NIOSH Basement Fires Safety Alert Chief Morris
- Establish new joint Health Safety Initiative with I-Women and Human Relations Committee Chief Kerwood
- Chief Dan Eggleston Candidacy for 2nd VP Upon Arrival
- Chief John Sullivan Physical Summit White Paper Presentation “Health Alliance”
- Dan Madrzykowski UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute
- Dave Wurtzel First Twenty with
- Vickie Lee Frist Net Presentation
- Government Relations report – Ken LaSala
- Firefighter Safety Through Advanced Research (FSTAR)- Chris Reilly
- IAFC Government Relation Ken LaSala
- Company Officers Section – Battalion Chief Randall Hanifen
- Wildland Fire – Chief Brian Fennessy
- ISFSI – Leigh Hubbard
- FDSOA – Rich Marinucci
Award Presentations – Chief Rhoades (2:30 PM)
- Billy Goldfeder Fire Service Organizational Safety Award (co-sponsor VFIS)
- Safety Officer of the Year (co-sponsors MSA and FDSOA)
- Alan Brunacini Fire Service Executive Safety Award (Sponsored by Provident Insurance)
- Garry Briese IAFC Safety Performance Award (Sponsor WHP Training Towers)
- Chair Award – Presented by Chair Chief Kerwood
- Membership Update and Status – Chief Sullivan / Chief Goldfeder
- SHS Strategic plan update - Chair Chief Kerwood
- FDSOA Events activities 2016, 2017 and beyond
- Floor Items
Other Items as Needed:
IAFC officials and candidates for office will address the membership at the discretion of the Chair.
FRI to be held August 17-20 in San Antonio.
Firefighter Memorial and Survival Walls
In partnership with the FSTAR Health program, the new Firefighter Memorial and Firefighter Survival Walls will be available to post a photo or share the name of a firefighter who has been lost to or has experienced job-related health issues. Visit FSTAR Health [www.fstaresearch.org] for more information about how you can take part in this effort.
Wednesday, August 17
3rd Annual Firefighter Physicals Summit: 8 AM–Noon
The summit will focus on developing a comprehensive strategic plan and working groups to tackle the critical issue of firefighter physicals. We’ll have the much-anticipated FSTAR Health Practitioner’s Guide to Firefighter Physicals as well as an update on ongoing efforts such as the OSHA National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
SHS Section Meeting: 1–4 PM
Stop by for an update on the latest efforts of the SHS Section on your behalf. The meeting will include the 2016 Safety, Health and Survival Awards, swearing-in of new board members, and updates on ongoing SHS projects.
Thursday, August 18
Attend the FRI General Session!
Friday and Saturday, August 19–20
SHS Booth #36047: All day on the Expo floor
Stop by the booth
Come see first-hand the new technology that is on display at the FRI Expo. Find out what products and services are out there to ease your stress and help you generate more revenue. From enhanced safety to increased efficiency—everything you need is here. See all that’s happening in the Exhibit Hall.
Pick up your copy of Let’s Make a Difference, offering guidelines and best practices to successfully minimize injuries and deaths while using POVs.
SHS Meet & Greet, 10–10:30 AM
Come to SHS Booth #36047 to network with other section members. We’ll give a free SHS challenge coin to every new section member and to every current SHS member who signs up a new member.
New in 2016! Learning Labs
Attend short, information-packed presentations in the FRI Exhibit Hall. Topics include:
- Medical Physicals and Guides to NFPA 1582
- Fire Dynamics
- Cancer, Cardiovascular, Behavioral Health and more!