Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Taking Care of Our Own/Stress and P.T.S.D. in the Fire Services

Wow....imagine that....we are now sitting in the 21st Century around a "virtual" kitchen table.

Hats off to the people who had the idea. I have been in and associated with the fire service for 32 years. In those years I have grown to admire love and support the work and those wounded working on the front lines of their community. Who am I talking about? You and those around you.

At the present time we are challenged with low funding, moral issues, threats beyond our borders, disasters in our home communities, from "Intentional Human Design", or good old "Ma Nature".

Through all of it, we step into the abyss with our equipment, our rigs, our mission to preserve protect and save life and limb. All good "Rubber Boot Warrior" stuff of which great story and myth emerge and merge into our psyche and our culture. What is hidden in the emotional smoke of events that shape us is .... the toll, the sacrifice that we make, to what we do making it look easy to those on the "outside of the system".

It is, as we know around the kitchen table, not easy at all. We take all of the work and the "smoke sweat and tears" in our stride. Suck it up Buttercup is the mantra.....The question is.....does all the bravado work? Does what we did before work now? Are we kidding ourselves about the toll "Operational Occupational Stress, P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)" is taking on us?

I am asking the question here in this blog.....are we kidding ourselves about the way our jobs shape and alter and affect our inner selves between the basement and the attic, our minds our souls? Are we "knights in shinning armour" covered in the blood and guts of our work riding around on our "chariots of fire" pretending that, we are invincable? I don't know the answer to that. I do know a few kinks in the flow of the hose towards points of view that we should and could be aware of.

As of October under the "Everyone Goes Home Fire Fighter Life Safety Initiatives", the United States Fallen Fire Fighter Foundation, the I.A.F.F. and the United States Volunteer Fire Council has included information on stress and stress related issues affecting us on the front lines.

Under section 13 of the life initiative, it states: "firefighters and their family shall have acess to psycholigical services".

I had an opportunity to discuss with Chief Ron Siranicki of the USFFF this past February, what we could do about the suicide rates in the American fire service. Our discussion led us to the collaboration about firefighter stress issues and a link to the following web site: where you can get connected to many resources and material about stress as it affects us on the front lines.

It is not union run nor is it run by a corporation of company. It is run by firefighterveterans who have diagnosed ptsd and was formed in October of 2001 just after the 911 event. The web stie itself has been up for 22 months and has had over 200 thousand hits from firefighters across the nation and around the world.....

On September 11th 2008 a second editon of the book titled CopShock by Allen Kates available on line from Amazon Books was re published with some 50 plus updates for Cops and Fire Fighters. The story of FDNY retired firefighterveteran Jimmy Brown is something that we all need to read. A link on the web site at allows you to listen to what he has to say about the stress and his experience with depression. Have a look......

There is a link at the top of the front page of to the story of firefighterveteran "Gregg McDougal out of Local 255 Calgary Alberta Canada" and his battle with depression after 30 years of service. It is also something to have a look at.

Gregg was forced to live on the streets because workers comp cut him off of his disability. His story is sad and compelling to hear. Are we really all that far away from leaving our own behind that we do so at the expense of telling ourselves "we care about the public we serve?" Are we too not a public that needs to get help from others and at the same time help our own? My thought after seeing this was "there but for the grace of God go I" a look at that one for a cuppa reality at the kitchen table.

In the meantime....I am on this blog because, it is after all, the kitchen table....and about now....I think I will go to the coffee machine for a some diesel.....nuff of this heavy stuff....

.....what's for lunch?????who is cooking? How much is this going to cost? I just had that at home? Any other ideas?

Geeez guys....job bob and's everywhere.......

take care all of hug...yeah...we can do that....

Shannon H. Pennington ptsd firefighterveteran
26 year career firefighter IAFF
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  1. If you were to poll firefighters on the issue of CISD, you would find them split. Some think that it is effective; therefore, needed and some who think that it doesn't work. When I called for it after a couple of bad calls, the people involved felt that it had helped.
    Some view stress or succumbing to it as "weakness". Consequently, they will not admit to it. As the stress builds, it manifests itself in the person in a number of ways that can only be treated by professionals.
    Career departments should do a base line psychological exam at the time of hire and then repeat it every few years after that to see if there is a "swing" in the firefighter's mental health.
    For vollies, it may be cost prohibitive, but no less important.
    Use grant money perhaps.
    It is important to address the mental health just as it is for physical health.

  2. All numbers are stated generally.

    Consider the population of fire fighters at risk to stress related injury or "Occupational Operational Stress Injury ptsd' OOSI ptsd.
    Some 1.2 million are on the front lines in America...of those aproximately 365, thousand are I.A.F.F. (in Canada about 19 thusand are I.A.F.F. of the 365 thousand plus or minus.)
    By the I.A.F.F.'s own estimate aproximately 10 percent of the membership have "full blown P.T.S.D. in one form or another without any intervention.
    Using that as a baseline you have ten percent of 365 thousand or 36,500 who are serving and going without "proper treatment". Use the 10 percent figure for the entire population of 1.2 million firefighters you have the figure of 120 thousand at risk, on the front lines, without any form of intervention or career/volunteer stress management in place.
    We own it. It is ours...and the swamp is full of aligators...
    It will keep us busy, funerals for suicide firefighters, spousal abuse, abandonment and neglect of our children, family breakdowns, booze and drugs.
    Getting stress connected to the information hydrant means getting educated about what it is doing to us. The "hydrant key" is on the rig your riding....use it to open up the information flow.....

  3. by the way....chiefreason....your rig is spot on...with your get the process in place...."homeland security funding" is there for reasons...find the reasons and apply for the money...see where it takes you and your department...


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