Safety Takes an Active Voice

Safety Takes an Active Voice



A firefighter ascends an aerial to the roof of a burning commercial building. The day and the fire look hot. The firefighter, feeling his roof operations will be exhaustive, left his turnout coat in the compartment of the apparatus.

As he moves toward the top of the ladder, we see, from our vantage point, more than just the aggressive climber.

A huge fireball bursts from the bowels of the structure, boils over the parapet, and engulfs the unaware firefighter. He is on fire. He stumbles. He tries to climb off the ladder, reacting to the pain. He regains some sense and discipline, turns, and continues to stagger. He is reaching toward aid at the ladder’s base. Still he burns. We view what we know is agonizing pain for what we feel is an eternity.


A crew of firefighters cross through a liquid covered with foam. As they near the valve, the liquid erupts in a sea of flame. The crew is trapped. They trip and fall, splashing around in the burning fluid. They run toward the viewer like human torches to escape the burning pool and searing pain.


A circular power saw, in the expert hands of a trained firefighter, is cutting through the shell of a vertical cylindrical tank to free an overcome worker inside. The force of the explosion rocks the camera’s lens as the photographer is slammed to the ground. He is unable to photograph the death of a brave firefighter.


A seminar in California has the state’s most experienced fire instructors riveted to their seats as a female firefighter, forever confined to a wheelchair, explains that the long black mark trailing from the dual rear tires of a now stationary fire truck is her blood. It had been smeared there as her body turned over and over under the wheels of the responding vehicle.

What (other than the shocking gruesomeness) is the common thread in these ghastly situations? These presentations serve but one purpose—to keep recurrence an improbability. Fire departments have made these graphic lessons, so often held from newsreels and critiques, available to us to drive home a vivid message. Safety. In this case, safety for the most unsafe profession in the world—firefighting.

Fire department leaders from four corners of our nation have gathered in Emmitsburg, MD, to establish a meaningful message in the form of a firefighter safety course from the National Fire Academy. A strip of film containing these and other similar situations, contributed from saddened departments across the country, is used to awaken the attendee to the most important lesson of the course—his safety and the safety of those around him.

Thank you. Academy, for such a thorough message. And bless you, fellow firefighters, for allowing such a painful experience for you to assist so many.

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