USFA Initiates Emergency Vehicle Safety Partnerships with National Fire Groups to Reduce Firefighter Fatalities

Wahington, D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has initiated partnerships with three leading fire service membership organizations to reduce the number of firefighters killed while responding to or returning from the emergency scene. The partnerships, through the United States Fire Administration (USFA), have been established with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC).

“Vehicle crashes represent the second leading cause of on-duty firefighter deaths,” said Michael D. Brown, Homeland Security Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response. “FEMA and USFA are looking forward to our partnership with the IAFC, IAFF, and NVFC in a unified effort to reduce the cause of approximately 25 percent of firefighter fatalities.”

The soon-to-be-released Fire Service Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative, which was jointly sponsored by the USFA and Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration, will serve as a basis for all three education efforts. Each organization will develop materials that directly target their membership.

“I am pleased to have USFA working with the IAFC, IAFF, and NVFC in this unified effort to reduce the number of firefighters killed while responding to or returning from incident,” said R. David Paulison, U.S. Fire Administrator, who further emphasized the use of seatbelts by firefighters and other emergency responders. “This partnership effort also supports the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Firefighter Life Safety Initiative to mitigate on-duty firefighter fatalities.”

In the last ten years, more than 225 firefighters have been killed in the line of duty while responding to or returning from emergencies. Deaths during this type of duty are typically only second to deaths on the emergency scene in the number of firefighters killed. In 2003, more firefighters lost their lives while responding or returning than were killed by non medically-related causes on the fire scene. Most of these deaths occurred in vehicle crashes. This outreach project to the fire service regarding vehicle safety will address issues such as seatbelt use, intersection safety, fire apparatus and emergency vehicles safety design, driver selection and training, policies involving alcohol and driving, and implementation of alternative response programs.

“The IAFC believes that no firefighter should be killed in the line of duty while responding and returning, especially from vehicle crashes,” IAFC President Chief Ernest Mitchell said. “IAFC will work in partnership with USFA, the IAFF, and the NVFC to reduce, if not eliminate, firefighter loss of life from this cause.”

“The vast majority of firefighter deaths while responding or returning are preventable. We must do everything that we can to provide our members with the information that they need to be safe,” said Harold Schaitberger, IAFF General President. “Our members face these risks every day and this project will make them safer as they do so.”

“As crashes involving privately owned vehicles are the leading cause of volunteer firefighter on-duty fatalities responding and returning, this is a major issue of concern to the NVFC and the volunteer fire service,” stated NVFC Chairman Philip Stittleberg. “The NVFC is strongly committed to eliminating firefighter deaths from vehicle crashes through this innovative partnership.”

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