The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council have announced that behavioral health will be the focus of this year’s activities during the 2013 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, to be held June 16-22.
Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety and Health Week to focus on safety and health training and education, allowing all shifts and personnel to participate. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend at least one day focusing on these critical issues.
Saving Our Own…An Inside Job
This year’s effort will capture the importance of responders looking out for their own and each other’s mental and physical well-being. This year’s tag line, Saving Our Own…An Inside Job, reflects the focus on the theme of behavioral health and the understanding that the most important factor in improving responder health and safety is other responders.
National and international organizations have been focusing on behavioral health issues for the past several years, but they are still taboo in many departments. Safety and Health Week is an opportunity to start moving discussion, action, and resources to the local level.
“Addressing behavioral health issues can only be done when we first acknowledge there is a problem, and we’ve been in collective denial as an industry for too long,” said IAFC President Hank Clemmensen. “Our responders are under unprecedented pressure, and it’s time we have some unprecedented conversations about how that impacts our health.”
“The mental and emotional well-being of our first responders is as important as their physical health,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “It is time we recognize that these issues have a critical impact on health and safety, and ignoring this puts our personnel at risk. The fire service community needs to understand these issues and remove the barriers to meeting the behavioral health needs of personnel.”
Start Planning Today
The IAFC and NVFC have provided planning resources on the Safety and Health Week web site at SafetyAndHealthWeek.org, including those related to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Life Safety Initiative #13, which addresses behavioral health issues within the fire service.
Departments are encouraged to submit links to additional resources, articles, and SOPs that can help other departments. Upload these resources using the form available on the Event Planning page of SafetyAndHealthWeek.org.
Begin your planning now. For more information visit Safety and Health Week online.