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Editor's Note
by Rick Markley, editor-in-chief

Why are firefighters still dying in the line of duty?

The best and brightest in the fire service will be looking at this and how to prevent LODDs

By Rick Markley, FR1 Editor-in-chief

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.

Keep safe.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Daryl M. Shy Daryl M. Shy Monday, March 10, 2014 1:18:33 PM Over weight and lack of exercise.
James D Sena James D Sena Monday, March 10, 2014 1:47:06 PM Attacking lifestyle is simplistic. The largest lodd was the Yarnel fire. Take that out of the equation and patterns are easier to identify. Making levels and anti tax rhetoric are more likely causes than anything else.
Cindy Murphy Cindy Murphy Monday, March 10, 2014 3:48:53 PM Lack of organizational discipline...command and control.
Chad Armstrong Chad Armstrong Monday, March 10, 2014 4:33:10 PM Absolutely.
Blake Mayo Blake Mayo Monday, March 10, 2014 4:52:18 PM We have forgotten to teach our firefighter how to read a fire. With better gear we are going in deeper and faster with out cooling the fire on out way in or out. We need to teach younger ff and review with senior ff the signs and principals of flash overs and roll overs also how to prevent back drafts. Finally to constantly train on the use of safety equipment. If its not used it won't work
Christina Johnston Christina Johnston Monday, March 10, 2014 5:14:10 PM Hey add me or call me....
Ed Hartin Ed Hartin Monday, March 10, 2014 6:42:30 PM Important and near and dear to my heart, but if we really want to address the problem, focus on cardiovascular fatalities (the 49%)!
Friedrich VonDeitsch Friedrich VonDeitsch Tuesday, March 11, 2014 1:35:04 AM I feel the main cause for the injuries and deaths that are becoming markedly greater per capita are due to the false security generated by the use of the new technologies. Too many Firefighters I have witnessed from afar, spoke to face to face and learned from as my superiors at State Fire Marshal fire school classes feel they are so well protected that they are willing to take risks that would not have been the case forty years ago. This fact has, in my opinion, led to Firefighters being exposed to extreme danger scenarios with the intent of "walking away" when it is just not possible. The new methods of team operations that advance each individuals safe entry and exit is also a major "weak link". I believe too much trust in "everything going right", when every veteran Fireman knows that usually everything will go wrong, also has caused some time honored safe practices to be abandoned leading to the inevitable loss of life. The simple understanding of the difference between fire resistant and fire proof must be acknowledged or more will be injured and killed.
Michael Elvin Michael Elvin Monday, March 17, 2014 5:55:32 PM I am an medic first, safety officer second, and firefighter only when absolutely necessary ;-) I have firefighters & chiefs I watch closely on the fire and accident scenes. We are getting old. I am, at 55, the youngest EMT in our Fire Dept. We run an ambulance along with 2 engines & a light rescue. Most of our volunteers (mutual aid companies)are not in tip top shape, so I half expect someone to drop on every scene and I am a dick about rehab. As a carpenter for the last 35 years, I know a thing or two about buildings. I am very uncomfortable with the emphasis on interior firefighting. The opportunity for things to go to crap is always there. If a building is going to be bulldozed after the fire, what are we doing in it, after the initial search. A little more common sense and a lot less we can slay the dragon no matter what...

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