Monday, July 19, 2010

Belt It Out: WEAR IT!

Mourn the death of yet another young volunteer firefighter.

Extend your condolences to his family, friends and fire department.

Read the story about his last few minutes on this Earth (

Then read the rather spirited discussion surrounding the details of his death (

And when you are through with all of that, I want you to get upset and downright angry because; FIVE years after the nation’s fire departments were asked to take the seatbelt pledge by then Acting United States Fire Administrator Charlie Dickinson, firefighters are still dying from not wearing them.

From apparatus crashes to accidents in personally-owned vehicles (POVs) while enroot, the message is getting missed and it’s another missed opportunity to educate our firefighters on one of the most basic firefighter safety principles-the wearing of seat belts.

The National Seat Belt Pledge is very straight forward and states: “I pledge to wear my seat belt whenever I am riding in fire department vehicles or any moving vehicle. I further pledge to ensure that all firefighters riding with me wear their seat belts”.

How many times have we responded to a motor vehicle accident (MVA) and found life-less victims lying outside of the vehicle and on the ground, knowing full well that seat belts may have made a difference?

I responded to a call some years ago and found all FIVE family members ejected from their sport utility vehicle (SUV). Three of the five didn’t survive.

How can we stand in front of our citizens as public safety champions if we aren’t willing to practice what we preach?

We love going to school assemblies and “scaring” young adults into following safe practices; yet, we don’t do as we say? Hypocrisy comes to mind.

It’s not heroic to die imitating a human cannonball. It is senseless, because it is easily preventable.

There is no excuse-none, zip, nada; for not wearing your seat belt.

Don’t give me that crap about it won’t go around you with your gear on. They make seat belts to fit those of you who are “big boned”.

Dr. Burton Clark wrote a very good article after Firefighter Joe Torkos died from being ejected during an apparatus accident. He said: “…we cannot point a finger at anyone; we cannot put the blame on someone else or something else; so there are no headlines. Not using seat belts is our own fault; we have no excuses; we are the flaw”.

However; a quick Internet search on this subject will find a couple of interesting trends: (1) Families are suing fire departments for not enforcing their seat belt policy and (2) Officers are being criminally charged for not ensuring that their crew was seat belted at the time of their accident. Neither will bring back the deceased firefighter(s), but I think that it points to a growing frustration over not following a very basic safety principle.

So, what is your excuse?

Do you need to see a seat belt policy?

Here is one suggested by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). It reads: “All personnel must be seated and belted whenever the vehicle (either department or personal) is in motion for department business. The driver and/or officer shall ensure by voice and personnel reply that seat belts are properly fastened. The driver will only proceed when it can be confirmed that all members are seated and belted. The only exception to the use of seat belts while a vehicle is in motion is a situation where a person is providing direct patient care (EMS) and there is no reasonable restraint system available. Utilize a progressive disciplinary system holding the violator and the supervisor responsible to ensure compliance with the seat belt policy, reflecting the serious and potential life-threatening consequences of failure to comply”.

Now that you have a policy…



The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
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