We have a great deal of work to do in the fire service when it comes to firefighter safety and our dismal firefighter fatality statistics. If you review the preliminary report by the United States Fire Administration, 107 firefighters were killed in 2004. More in-depth information on each death should be published soon but for now look at how some of our brothers and sisters were killed;
- 50% of the firefighter fatalities were from traumatic injuries (asphyxiation, burns, drowning, vehicle crashes)
- 50% of the firefighter fatalities were non-traumatic injuries (heart attacks and strokes. 49 deaths were from heart attacks!)
- 3 were killed from apparatus backing up
- 4 were killed from falls from vehicles
- 5 were killed in fire apparatus collisions
- 5 were struck by vehicles
- 9 were killed in wildland fires
- 20 were killed in vehicle collisions
Even though the above statistics are shocking, the recent "National Stand-Down Day" held in June 2005 has had an apparent positive effect on the nation's fire service. Since June 23, 2005 the record pace of firefighter deaths has slowed greatly and to date 68 firefighters have died this year according to the U.S. Fire Administration (www.usfa.fema.gov). We should all be encouraged that through conscious effort, great resolve, and hard work the rate of firefighters killed has been reduced from a record rate of over 10 per month to approximately 4 per month since June! Let us continue to live by the words of Henry David Thoreau of long ago who said, "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor".
In a continued effort to reverse the number of firefighters killed each year, and continue the improvement of our industry's safety record, I would like to offer some thoughts or concepts to consider. "Staying Alive in 2005!" would be a great motto for all of us but the acronym "SAFETY" may have better long-term results if we all live these concepts.
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