Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Inconvenient Safety Measure

I’m always impressed with the very libertarian approach our fire service takes on issues that they don’t like for whatever reason. I mean, it’s all well and good to require regulations and ordinances for everyone else when safety is the topic, but when the federal government comes down from on high and attempts to pass legislation that might increase our safety, well, it’s a different story.

Not that this legislation was without flaws; but the consideration for hazmat personnel and personnel actively fighting fire aside, the occasional argument about the “aggrevation of wearing the vest” and that “my turnouts are sufficient” seem a little ridiculous especially since I’m familiar with my vest (which is pretty easy to don) and my own turnouts (exactly how much good the retroreflective trim is on it after the fires I have been through).

Does your turnout ensemble meet the NFPA standards? Yes, mine does. Is the ensemble serviceable? Again, yes, mine is. Am I lit up like a department store Christmas tree when working in one of the most hazardous environments we routinely face? The answer is no.

I think reason prevailed and I think the right changes were made. But the whole “incovenvience” of safety rules gets me going a little.

In regard to this issue, we have an obligation to honor the souls of our brothers who have been tragically killed in the line of duty while working traffic incidents by remembering their situation and trying to prevent future losses. We have a need to be visible in traffic. I heard someone the other day bemoaning the chevron striping my department’s (Hilton Head Island) new apparatus (see picture by Lt. Jason Walters). You know what? Who cares if it clashes with your uniform? It’s visible. It’s going to hopefully save your life.

When inconvenience and aesthetics trump safety, I have heartburn with that. Do you want to be the officer that tells a family that we lost their loved one because we wanted to be color-coordinated or because the vest was a pain to wear? It’s time we looked deep into our hearts and asked ourselves, do we want to be safer? Do we really?
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  1. How about flashing lights on our helments? That sounds nifty.
    I think you could make a firefighter Neon Yellow and that wouldn't stop some idiot rubber-necker from plowing into you.

  2. As a volunteer FF who has to wear these vests a work in and around sawmills, I can tell you that even with the vests on, you take your life into your hands stepping into the possible path of heavy equipment.

    A better idea would perhaps be if someone hits a first responder, the police drag them our of their car and beat them in full view of the public. Oh sorry I guess that would violate their right to be a self-centered ***hole.

  3. There are comments on both sides of the aisle on this topic. Statistics are also available to allow for an adequate arguement on both sides.

    The fire service loses and injures to many firefighters on an annual basis and I believe that we should do anything that we can to provide for the safety of our members.

    Being assigned to the second busiest house in our jurisdiction, I have had to use over vests several times. In addition to the wear of the vests, our training division has issues a training program for review and it would astound many of you the lack of visability that our turnout gear does produce.

    There are many times that legislators stay out of our business and allow us to do what we need to do to get the job done. When the issue becomes large enough, organizations that are designed to provide safety in the workplace get involved. If we take a look at some of the past items, one of the most important is the self-contained breathing apparatus that we now use. Life safety is more important than anything we have to do.

    The vests coupled with good scene safety, lane blocking, and use of natural barriers (i.e. fire truck) we will be able to reduce the injuries related to accident related scenes.

    Take a look at actual incident...

    Stay Safe...

  4. Isn't it possible to make turnout gear with the same visibility as the vest? Perhaps some Supplier is working on this idea now. I wouldn't have any resistance to wearing more brightly colored gear if it means not having to don and doff a vest. I would like to see some statistics on the success vests have made with preventing LOD's or injuries, on traffic scene calls.

  5. I think each of you are on target with your remarks (even the tongue-in-cheek flashing light remark, Larry). There are definitely limitations to what we can do- the public will run over a five inch hose left in the street and will even attempt to run over it charged (which I always pray does some serious damage to their vehicle when it happens). There just isn't a lot of attention being paid to the situation by these drivers, blowing along at warp speed, chatting mindlessly into their cellphone with their cigarette in one hand and coffee in the other. Do you think they care about us?

    But to just abandon the effort isn't the answer either; we need to try to make things safer; blocking off roads and using better visibility stuff should help us in the end.

  6. Art "ChiefReason" GoodrichDecember 2, 2008 at 7:43 AM

    My department was just complaining about this. Why?
    Because they had on bright reflective vests the night a car chased them down an embankment.
    I am a risk manager by trade. Safety is job one with me.
    But, if the big, red fire trucks with all the flash bangs, chevron stripes and strobes don't get the public's attention, then we don't stand a prayer on two legs in a bright vest.
    How fast can you run the 40?

  7. I'm all in favor of closing down the highway. The key, I suppose, would be to insure there is a media liaison present and make sure the whole city knows that the reason we shut down the highway is because we can't trust you all not to run us over. Not that bringing that to the attention of the public would matter...

  8. I'm all for safety, and the new regs but my department has made us use our old non-compliant vest and throw them on over our fire gear. So we aren't compliant and still wearing the stupid vest. If we are going to do it, let's do it right!!!


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