During his tenure in office, the former Mayor Ed Koch of New York City was noted for asking “How am I doing?” With that smile and impish grin on his face he won over many a New Yorker along with thousands of others across the country as he governed the City of New York to most everyone’s liking.
Now that the year 2005 has ended, I pose a similar question to the fire service; “How are we doing?” The answer may not bring a smile to our faces, but 2005 closed out with a slight reduction in LODD’s. In 2005 there were 106 LODD’s and in 2004 there were 117, which includes late additions and corrections. (For the same reasons, we may see a spike in the 2005 figure by the end of this year.)
A small portion of the 2005 total is due to the change in the Hometown Heroes Act of 2003. “That change allows presumption that a heart attack or stroke are in the line of duty if the firefighter was engaged in non routine stressful or strenuous physical activity while on duty and the firefighter becomes ill while on duty or within 24 hours after engaging in such activity.”
It is estimated by the USFA that there is a 6 – 8% increase because of the change in the law. Because of this, it is rather difficult to discern whether we have had a slight decrease from last year, or if we stayed relatively the same. We won’t really know until the end of 2006 when all the statistics for 2005 are reviewed, evaluated, and a final determination made.
This past year a vigorous campaign was initiated by all the national fire service organizations along with the USFA and NFPA promoting the “Everyone Goes Home” campaign sponsored by the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation and the 16 Life Saving Initiatives. (If you haven’t heard or read about it you can link to the web page at: (http://www.everyonegoeshome.org/ )
The intent is to bring about a 25 per cent reduction in firefighter fatalities within 5 years, and a 50 per cent reduction in ten years. We also had a National Stand Down for Safety day this on June 21st. We must continue this effort until we have achieved the goals that have been set, and then long after to prevent any reoccurrence.
There is still work to be done, not only on the national level, but in our own departments and companies. The driving force to bring about a reduction in the annual death toll of firefighters is you and me and our fellow firefighters! It is we who must work within the confines of our own local departments and county organizations.
We hear always about grass root participation, well that is what we need in order to bring about and maintain a real reduction in LODD’s. I am a firm believer that we never will eliminate all firefighter LODD’s, it is the nature of the beast. In the world of the unexpected we do our best to prepare for all contingencies, but sometimes things don’t always go as we would like. But there are many needless firefighter deaths annually that can be prevented, for starters just think about the vehicle crashes in 2005 that claimed 25 firefighters.
Think of the stupid acts, yes, I said Stupid, that we have witnessed (or committed) on the emergency scene and how fortunate the involved individuals were to come out unscathed or with minor injuries. Remember, not everyone has been so lucky, just review the annual Death and Injury reports for the past years.
Each and every firefighter must attend the annual eight hour safety refresher and we must become active participants in spreading the word about staying safe and stopping unsafe practices. The refresher may seem boring, and for sure we’ve heard it all before, but the annual death and injury figures speak for themselves. Apparently not everyone is getting it!
So “How are we doing?” As I see it, the figure is down from 2004, but we still have a way to go before our goal can be reached. If we all work at being safe and staying safe, and if we all become our brothers and sisters keeper, their safety officer, we can begin to bring about a continued reduction in those statistics. Your effort is important to success and you just may help to save a life, the life of a fellow firefighter and friend.
Let’s make 2006 the year we see a dramatic drop in the annual death toll!
Till next time, Stay Safe and God Bless!