Stand down focuses on vehicle safety


By Matt Kapko, FireRescue1 News Editor

Last year, 26 of the 106 U.S. firefighter line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) were caused by vehicle accidents. The 2006 International Firefighter Safety Stand Down, which begins June 21, enables fire departments across the United States and Canada to focus on emergency-vehicle safety and what the fire service can do to reduce these LODDs. This FireRescue1 Exclusive examines the efforts departments are making to stem the tide of vehicle-related deaths, and what you can do to cut down on the most preventable cause of death in the fire service.

“We have a significant number of firefighters being killed every year responding to and returning from calls,” says Chief Bill Killen, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

This year’s stand down marks only the second national initiative and the first with a specific focus — vehicle safety.

“This is based on a very successful concept,” Killen says. As director of the U.S. Navy’s Fire and Emergency Services for nearly 30 years, he recalls the military’s use of stand down to correct problematic issues. The military uses the method to correct an issue that has been identified as a problem throughout its ranks.

This year, the IAFC, along with at least 20 other fire service organizations, is asking all career, volunteer and combination fire departments to set aside time to stand down from the routine aspects of the job and focus on training, and procedures and tactics that can increase their members’ overall health and safety.

Emergencies should be responded to as usual, Killen says, but time that is usually spent on the daily routine should be dedicated to vehicle safety.

“We’re saying that we want departments to not focus on the routine things you do everyday and focus on safety," he adds. "We’re advocating that everybody do this on every shift until everybody in the department stands down and participates."

Killen notes that we should all be mindful that something as simple as wearing a seatbelt could save lives.

“It’s a very easy thing. Guys jump in the vehicle — and I can relate this, I’ve been doing this for a long time — and they just don’t think to put their seatbelt on,” he says.

Thousands of fire departments are expected to participate, and take the time to promote safety and prevent firefighter LODDs.

“It’s one section of firefighter safety that we think we can have a significant impact on,” says Lisa Silverboard, one of the coordinators of the initiative.

The stand down should begin and end with a moment of silence for all fire service LODDs. Throughout the day, departments are asked to check all apparatus, equipment and personal protective equipment. Each shift should review safe vehicle operations and drills, physical fitness, health and safety standards, and infectious disease safety.

The IAFC recommends that departments review LODD causes, utilize NIOSH reports and recommendations and focus the entire shift on vehicle safety and what can be done to improve vehicle safety department wide and individually.

“Every little bit helps, no matter how small it is,” Killen says.  “If we can get one firefighter’s life saved as a result of the stand down then we have succeeded.”

The IAFC Web site has provided a recommended activity schedule [PDF] for the 2006 International Fire Fighter Safety Stand Down and much more at www.iafc.org/standdown.

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