Earlier this month, American voters visited their respective polling places in their community to select leaders at various levels of government and voted on important bonds and measures—many that have an impact on infrastructure, funding opportunities for public safety, and resource allocations for our most precious resource, our youth.
As professional fire service personnel, we know that regardless of who is in office at the different levels in government, we still have important responsibilities to carry out under the realm of preparedness, community risk reduction, mitigation, and restoration. As company and chief officers, we will continue to train, supervise, and expect our people to provide a high level of service to the communities across the United States that we serve.
Using data from NIOSH (1994 – present), we continue to see reductions in the number of annual line of duty deaths. Fire departments across the United Sates continue to employ alternative EMS models that are in line with the community para-medicine concept. UL and NIST continue to employ untiring efforts to educate us on modern fire behavior and water mapping. Last, organizations are implementing successful programs and strategies to combat the increasing rate of mental issues involving fire service personnel.
As we prepare professionally for 2019, we must continue moving forward as educators, leaders, and innovators. What does that look like for the company officer:
- Ensuring that our firefighters wear their SCBA’s from the beginning of the incident through property conservation and overhaul.
- Ensuring that our firefighters doff their gear prior to getting back on the apparatus.
- Ensuring that our firefighters wash their gear (including flash-hood) after every fire, and on a frequent basis.
- Using ICS on all incidents.
- Employing rehabilitation and medical monitoring strategies at extended operations, and in elevated temperature environments.
- Encouraging our firefighters to spend less time at the coffee table playing the role of mayor or fire chief—use that time to enhance knowledge, skills, and abilities germane to the profession.
- Encouraging our firefighters to seek out certifications and college degrees.
- Encouraging our firefighters to branch out and learn from other fire service personnel in different parts of the world—take on a global perspective.
- Ensuring that seatbelts are worn by all individuals while the apparatus is moving.
- Being kind to each other. As humans, we are all going through issues in both our personnel and professional lives. PTSD is not just associated with the military—it is in our communities and in our profession.
- Being consummate role models and keeping our younger firefighters engaged.
The aforementioned list is not exhaustive; however, it is a tectonic list that if rigorously employed by the company officer, will allow us to realize a downward trend in occupational fatalities, cancer diagnoses, and suicides among us. Regardless of who is serving in an elected position, you (company officer) can and must ensure that the above are executed. Your firefighters are counting on you! Continue to remain a student of the profession.