Above, at left, Todd LeDuc and other participants at the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) conference.
I had honor of speaking at the 10-year anniversary of the CPSE’s annual conference in Orange County, California. The 550 attendees arguably represent some of the most excellent organizations and professionals within the fire service international community, as validated by outside peer-review processes. I say that because they have either attained or are pursuing elite status after committing to self-assessment and documentation of meeting or attaining industry competencies and organizational outcomes that have been established by a broad group of stakeholder groups within the fire service and the communities serve. There are currently fewer than 300 accredited fire departments and more than 1,000 credentialed chief fire officers, representing a small percentage of the overall population pool of international fire departments and fire service leaders. However, the leadership of accredited and credentialed fire agencies are well positioned to lead the way by commitment to address occupational health and wellness through actions of prioritization of health and wellness of their firefighters.
Above: Todd LeDuc and others speak at CPSE conference
We are aware the three most prevalent killers of American firefighters are those of occupational cancers, cardiac events, and suicide. We also know that in each of these diseases occupational risk can be minimized through various risk-reduction strategies, which include both systemic changes and personal accountability. At a recent fire service industry conference, the keynote presenter a colleague and friend talked about not being victimized by occupational threats to firefighters. The reality is we can only become victims if we let these occupational threats victimize us by not appropriately addressing them. The fact is, with the increasing focus on fire service behavioral health threats, cardiovascular risks and cancer exposure, we, both as agencies and individuals, are “empowered” now more than ever to survive our fire service careers.
Have you and your organization performed a self-assessment as to what actions have been put in place and are taken individually to address behavioral health risks? Do you have peer-support programs in place for peer-to peer-assistance? Have you and your department focused on healthy “coping” mechanism to address occupational related stressors? If not, what are you waiting for? The same holds true for cardiovascular risk and cancer exposure. Have you and your department focused on proper nutrition and weight management and embraced physical fitness and the concept of the “tactical athlete”? With regard to cancer exposure, have you and your departments addressed proper gear cleaning and decontamination procedures after toxic exposures, wipes, wash downs, remaining on air, and skin decontamination wipes? Almost each of these occupational threats are entirely manageable with early detection and intervention with appropriate annual medical screenings. Is your department providing annual National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582 physicals? if not, why not? Are you using your empowerment to get your own annual screenings and acting as necessary upon the results?
In short, we as the American and global fire service as well as individuals are empowered by knowledge to protect ourselves and “rise above” the tide of preventable line-of-duty death and disability. What are you waiting for? Start your day empowered to survive and thrive!
Todd J. LeDuc, MS, CFO, FIFirE, is an executive assistant chief with and a 29-year veteran of Broward County (FL) Fire Rescue, aninternationally accredited career metro department. He has a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, is a credentialed chief fire officer, and is a Fellow in the Institute of Fire Engineers. LeDuc is a peer reviewer for professional credentialing and agency accreditation. He speaks and publishes articles frequently; serves on numerous editorial and advisory boards; and has conducted more than 50 fire department evaluations, master and strategic plans, and feasibility studies on three continents. He can be reached at email@example.com.