Some of the best minds in the fire service gathered in Tampa, Fla., 10 years ago to figure out how to reduce firefighter line-of-duty deaths. They came away with, among other things, the 16 Life Safety Initiatives.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is reconvening that meeting today in Tampa. To say that I'm honored and humbled to have a place at the table with these individuals is an understatement.
Their task is the same as it was 10 years ago: reduce the number of firefighter deaths. It is no small charge. The timing of this meeting couldn't be better given the spike in line-of-duty deaths last year and in the early months of this year.
As a lead up to this meeting, we asked readers to identify the reason for the recent jump in line-of-duty deaths. We did this in a poll with set answers to choose from and in an open-ended question on our Facebook pages.
This is by no means scientific or statistically accurate — the sample size was small and participants could self-select. It does, however, give a glimpse into why firefighters believe LODDs are rising. You can't effectively prevent something until you understand its causes.
A couple of interesting patterns jumped out at me.
The first is the sentiment that the causes can be tied back to firefighter behavior. That's encouraging as it tells me firefighters believe in taking responsibility for their own safety as opposed to blaming something like engineering controls — say inferior PPE for example. This sense of personal accountability extended from fireground behavior to life style choices, which may increase the risk of heart attacks.
The other interesting pattern was a lack of blame placed on fire department leadership. You need look no further than Charleston to see how leadership can impact department culture and on-scene behavior.
I didn't get the sense from the responses that firefighters were using leaders as scapegoats on this issue. That too is encouraging and reinforces the argument that firefighters feel personally accountable for their own safety.
You can still vote on the poll and add comments in today's feature story. Firefighter deaths are the most important issue facing the fire service and I'm interested in hearing your views.
In the meantime, join me on the Fire Chief Facebook page for updates from Tampa.