The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and the First Responder Center for Excellence (FRCE), in collaboration with Firehouse Magazine, recently released their “2020 Fire Service Health & Safety Report.” This free report features a series of articles that cover timely topics related to health and safety in the fire service, written by contributors in the fire service and experts in other fields. Just in case you don’t have time to read the entire document, or are interested in some highlights, we’ve compiled some of our main takeaways in this blog.
The report begins with 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives (FLSI), which guide the NFFF’s focus on health and safety. Several of these initiatives are highlighted and focused on throughout the report. Here are some of our favorite initiatives listed and featured in the articles:
- CULTURAL CHANGE: Define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety; incorporating leadership, management, supervision, accountability, and personal responsibility.
- ACCOUNTABILITY: Enhance the personal and organizational accountability for health and safety throughout the fire service.
- RISK MANAGEMENT: Focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels, including strategic, tactical, and planning responsibilities.
- EMPOWERMENT: All firefighters must be empowered to stop unsafe practices.
- MEDICAL & PHYSICAL FITNESS: Develop and implement national medical and physical fitness standards that are equally applicable to all firefighters, based on the duties they are expected to perform.
- RESPONSE POLICIES: National standards for emergency response policies and procedures should be developed and championed.
The articles cover a wide variety of topics and are written by numerous experts across the fire service (from a deputy fire chief at a U.S. Air Force Base to the director of the Center for Fire, Rescue & EMS Health Research at the National Development and Research Institutes), as well as other fields (including a doctor who is an expert in sleep science and the president of an architecture firm). As stated in the report’s introduction letter, “These authors speak to projects, programs and culture shifts that they embarked on to buttress the safety of the members in their charge and the NFFF’s efforts to support them in their darkest hours.”
Here are just some of the key articles we recommend included in the Health & Safety report:
- “Create Safety Culture Change” – discusses the Fire Service Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey, which is a fire service tool that minimizes occupational injury and increases safety.
TAKE ACTION>> By implementing the Fire Service Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey from the Center for Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST), your fire department can measure your safety culture and crew members can empower themselves to advocate for the resources they need to keep first responders safe, healthy and mentally fit for response.
- “Combating Cardiovascular Disease in the Fire Service” – highlights the importance of ensuring that all firefighters get proper medical evaluations, and that they use that information to manage their risk.
TAKE ACTION>> To decrease the burden of cardiovascular disease in the fire service, fire departments should ensure that: 1. All firefighters get medical evaluation; 2. Firefighters are evaluated by knowledgeable physicians who understand the physiological strain of firefighting and the environment in which it is performed; 3. Firefighters use the information from their medical evaluations to manage their risk; and 4. Firefighters are evaluated with the best screening tools that are available.
- “5 Tips for Better Sleep” – offers effective strategies to help shift workers like firefighters and EMS personnel get better sleep, which can facilitate the mental and emotional well-being of crews.
TAKE ACTION>> For better quality sleep, firefighters should implement these five tips: aim for consistency (go to bed and wake up at the same time every day); avoid alcohol (completely or at least three hours before going to bed); create an optimal sleep environment (such as adding blackout shades and keeping the room cool); relax before bed (using techniques that help ‘turn off’ your brain, such as breathing exercises or stretching); and make sure you get your daily dose of activity (establish a routine for exercise – even if it’s just a 15-20 minute walk).
- “Driven to Change” – outlines the new practices that the LAFD implemented to improve firefighter safety in response to a near-miss roof collapse incident.
TAKE ACTION>> Fire departments must be progressive in identifying and managing the risks that can cause injury or even death. Take into consideration LAFD’s three-step All Hazard Emergency Incident Decision Making Process, which they implemented so they have a consistent template that every firefighter can utilize for emergency incident responses: 1. Gain situational awareness; 2. Conduct risk assessment/risk profile; and 3. Apply the appropriate operational mode and include in the radio size-up.
- “Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives in the Wildland” – explains how wildland firefighters can incorporate elements of the 16 FLSI as they prepare for and engage in combating wildfires.
TAKE ACTION>> The 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives (FLSI), developed by the NFFF, have been re-interpreted for the wildland community to clarify their relevance to wildland firefighters. Wildland firefighters should incorporate elements of these initiatives when preparing for and engaging in combating wildland fires. As the article states, “the 16 FLSIs provide support to the wildland firefighter in nearly every aspect of the discipline, from supporting a culture of managed risks to encouraging homeowners who are in the interface to take a greater responsibility for their fire safety.”
As stated in the introduction letter, the 32-page Health & Safety report is intended to serve as a valuable tool to “inspire change in your organization, redouble efforts you already have under way or serve as a reminder that [the NFFF and the FRCE] are here if you need us.”
The “2020 Fire Service Health & Safety Report” can be downloaded here.
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