The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) have announced the theme for the 2015 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week: Creating a Culture of Safety.
Fire and EMS departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during the week of June 14-20 and allow all shifts and personnel to focus on safety and health training and education. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend at least one day focusing on these critical issues. SafetyAndHealthWeek.org provides resources to help departments implement the week locally; planning materials, such as a customizable press release, activity ideas, and promotional materials, will be available soon.
Creating a Culture of Safety
Emergency response is a dangerous job. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 97 firefighters died in the line of duty in 2013 and 65,880 were injured. Studies have shown that firefighters are at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and behavioral health issues such as PTSD.
Creating a Culture of Safety emphasizes both the need to change attitudes and behaviors to foster an environment that embraces safety and the need to proactively reduce risk. The entire fire and emergency service community can work together to eliminate preventable tragedy and minimize the immediate and long-term risks of emergency response.
The theme draws attention to three areas critical for creating a safety culture: the community, the department, and the individual.
- Community: The best fire is one that never happens. Creating a culture of safety within the community—where codes are enforced, fire sprinklers are utilized, and risks are reduced—will lead to fewer fires and fewer calls for fire response. This in turn reduces risk to firefighters and EMTs from vehicle crashes during response, exposure to toxins that can cause cancer and other illnesses, and dangerous working conditions resulting from large fires.
- Department: Creating a culture of safety within the department is critical to protecting personnel. Changing the department culture starts with leadership. Policies and procedures that advance safety must be implemented and enforced, safe and healthy practices should be accepted by and expected of personnel, and safety should be a critical component of all training and all fireground and vehicle operations.
- Individual: Personal accountability is a key component of keeping firefighters and emergency responders safe. Each individual must take responsibility for following SOPs and SOGs, prioritizing safety and health, and lessening their own risks. This includes proper use and maintenance of PPE to prevent exposure and reduce cancer risks, managing heart health through fitness and nutrition, and seeking help if experiencing behavioral health issues.
“Creating a culture of safety will result in fewer fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, resulting in a stronger, more resilient fire and emergency service,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “I strongly encourage all fire and emergency service departments and personnel to use the 2015 Safety and Health Week to focus on what they can do to make health and safety a priority at the community, department, and individual levels. Together, we can achieve culture change and reduce the risks our responders face.”
“Creating a culture of safety in our departments and communities is the first step to effectively protecting life and property,” said G. Keith Bryant, IAFC President and Chairman of the Board. “I encourage chiefs, chief officers, and everyone in the fire and emergency service to fully embrace and participate this year in International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week.”
For more information and resources for Safety and Health Week, visit SafetyAndHealthWeek.org. Departments are encouraged to submit links to additional resources, articles, and SOPs that can help other departments. Upload these resources using the form on the site’s Event Planning page.