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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Only you can help prevent firefighter deaths and injuries

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: With the number of on-duty firefighter fatalities declining for the second year in a row, Chief Adam K. Thiel looks at the USFA's LODD report and and shares his thoughts on what we can learn.

While it's too early to call it a trend (statistically speaking), the latest annual report on firefighter fatalities from the United States Fire Administration is definitely good news!

But (you knew that was coming) as a fire service, there's still a lot we can do to help prevent any more of our brother and sister firefighters, and their families, from experiencing line-of-duty deaths and injuries.

I'm sure you'll see a lot of comments on this information over the coming days, weeks, and months; a few notable items for now:

Once again, more than half of the firefighter fatalities in 2010 were from heart attacks. Did you get your physical this year? Fit in a workout today? What's for dinner at the fire station/hall/house tonight?

Try getting into that smoking cessation program yet? We all know the risk factors for cardiac emergencies and we know what we need to do — as individuals, companies/shifts/units, and departments — to lower our risk; isn't it time to make it happen?

Sure, training can be risky; sometimes as risky as actual operations, right? Well, sort of, but not really. See, there's a fundamental difference: we know when training is going to happen!

We can plan for it, staff it, select (or de-select) the participants, and — to a large degree — control the environment. Don't have enough qualified instructors? Cancel it.

Too hot outside? Cancel it. Pre-entry vital signs too high? Sit this one out. No safety officer? Cancel it. Gear damaged? Maybe next time. These are all things we can anticipate and fix, before tragedy happens.

Responding to and returning from incidents? Get trained; wear your seat belt; slow down; stop for red lights, stop signs, and negative right-of-way situations; and drive defensively!

We owe it to ourselves, our families, and those we've lost through the years to help make sure 2009 and 2010 are, indeed, the start of a long-term downward trend.

REMEMBER (to steal/modify a phrase from a famous firefighting bear) — ONLY YOU CAN HELP PREVENT FIREFIGHTER DEATHS AND INJURIES!

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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