Safety Doesn’t Take the Summer Off

Chief Kanterman’s Journal 54

Most of us probably take some time in the summer to relax at the shore or up in the mountains. (I’m thinking the gang in Colorado is looking for the beach and the gang in Florida is heading for Montana, just sayin’.) In any event, we talk “health and safety” every day at every call, at every training class and every drill. Why not? It’s all about surviving the fire service and getting out healthy and in one piece. But what about off duty or when not tied up with the volunteer company? I know too many firefighters that have gotten seriously injured or worse when on their own time. Do we have a memory lapse when not in uniform or when the pager is placed in the charger? One guy was painting his house and fell off a 3-story ladder. One guy was mowing the lawn and kicked up a rock to his forehead. On a national level, our colleagues report through web sites and email newsletters that firefighters get killed on motorcycles and jet skis every summer. We need to pay better attention for our sake and our family’s sake. Consider these for a happy and healthy summer, beach side or mountainside:

Water Safety:

  • Everyone should learn how to swim, float and survive in the water. Us and the kids! Swim in life guard protected areas and never dive in unknown waters.
  • Take a Coast Guard approved boating course (if you have a boat!) and use USCG approved personal flotation devices (PFD’s).
  • If someone is in trouble in the water, reach (with a pole) throw (a life buoy on a rope) row (go get them in a boat) or go (but only if you are a strong swimmer with rescue skills.)
  • Swim with a buddy and teach your kids to do the same. The Boy Scouts of America have used the “buddy system” successfully for 110 years including during this summer at scout camps all over the country.

General Safety:

  • Wear safety glasses or goggles when mowing the lawn.
  • Tie off ladders so they stay secure for the moments we forget we’re on a ladder.
  • Drive to stay alive.
  • Plan your trips and take the proper gear with you whether hiking the mountains or boating on the lake or in the ocean.


  • Stay fit in your time off. Work out while on vacation. Scale it back because hey, you’re on vacation but keep moving!
  • Watch your diet. It’s very easy to drift over to comfort food while vacationing.
  • Beach volley ball or mountain biking?

Have a great summer and enjoy yourself but come back in one piece. We need you in the firehouse and on the line.

Be well, stay well, be safe,

Ronnie K

This commentary reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fire Engineering. It has not undergone Fire Engineering‘s peer-review process.


  • RON KANTERMAN is a more than four-decade veteran of the fire service and recently retired as chief of the Wilton (CT) Fire Department. He has a B.A. degree in fire administration and two master's degrees. He’s a contributing author for Fire Engineering , the Fire Engineering Handbook for Firefighter I and II , and the 7th edition of the Fire Chief’s Handbook .

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