Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Really folks, we should know this.....

...... And I'm gonna do my best to help. Yes, I know it seems I am focused on this rehab kick of late, but we all know this is important and I am convinced that all of us working together to spread the word CAN make a difference. So just like my hound when she gets a rawhide bone, I'm not letting it go just yet.
 Over on Command Safety, Chris Naum just posted a nicely written summary of the newly released USFA report on Firefighter Fatalities in 2009. As an instructor this is what I use every year to 'fill in the blanks' on my presentations and justify for my classes WHY the stuff I present is relevant. You can get your very own copy of the report HERE
 But getting back to rehab and what I am tying to sell as the most important function any of us can provide I would like you to go give Chris's summary a good look then come back. If you are really pressed for time, here is the section I would like you to focus on:

Fifty firefighters died in 2009 as a result of stress/ overexertion:
  • Thirty-nine firefighters died due to a heart attack.
  • Eight firefighters died due to CVAs.
  • One firefighter died from heat exhaustion.
  • One firefighter died from a pulmonary embolism.
  • One firefighter died from damage to a heart valve, an acute event caused by the extreme physical exertion.
Now there were 90 Firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2009 and 50 of them were the result of 'stress/overexertion'. That's 55%. Now you would have a very hard time trying to convince me that there was nothing that could be done to reduce that number by at least half. With the exception of firefighters that went down IN the fire, there had to be some warning signs. The reports bear this out in many cases. The problem was that nobody heeded these signs, and if they saw them, they did nothing about it. Most likely, they asked, and the victim said, "nah, I'm fine". I've done this myself, and probably you have to. We came to do a job and we expect to get it done. We can lick our wounds later. But maybe not.
 Look, I'm not one of those 'safety nuts' that believes we can make everything perfectly safe or nearly so. Firefighting is a damned dangerous business. Some of us will die every year and many will be injured, others will suffer debilitating illnesses. This is the deal and there is no way to stop it. I would like to believe that every time somebody makes a serious sacrifice, it is because the risk they took was worth the benefit. Life safety is primary of course, and I personally am willing to take almost any reasonable risk in that situation with my own security. I'm a lot more careful with my crew of course. But that's just me. We have to do that analysis every time we take the leap, "is the risk worth it?". For an empty structure? Hell no! During training? Again, Hell no! Trapped occupants? Maybe, well actually almost every time. But the point is to look at the risk before you jump in and have a plan.
 If I could get one message in the head of every Firefighter and EMS provider in the world, it would be this: Look at yourself and your crews honestly and without prejudice. If you feel like crap, DO something about it! If a member of your Crew looks like crap, DO something about it! If a firefighter you are rehabbing looks like crap, DO something about it! Have the COURAGE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! For what is, by all accounts, a group of courageous people, we sometimes lack the courage to save ourselves. What's wrong with that picture?

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