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Firefighter Safety Stand Down: History, themes and how to participate

The initiative calls for the suspension of non-emergency activities to focus solely on safety and health training and discussion

By FireRescue1 Staff

The Firefighter Safety Stand Down is an annual event observed by fire departments across the country to highlight and emphasize the safety of firefighters.

The initiative calls for the suspension of non-emergency activities to focus solely on safety and health training and discussions. During this week-long event, various activities are conducted, including training sessions, workshops and drills centered around a theme of firefighter safety.

How did the Firefighter Safety Stand Down begin?

Modeled after a similar program used in the U.S. military, the first Firefighter Safety Stand Down was led by the IAFC’s Safety Health and Survival Section in 2005, with more than 1,000 fire departments participating in the then-one-day initiative. The goal was to address the concerning number of firefighter injuries and deaths that were occurring annually and to create a dedicated period where fire departments could pause and reflect on their practices, learn new safety techniques and correct potentially dangerous behaviors.

In 2006, the IAFF joined as a co-sponsor of the event, which had expanded from one day to 3-4 days, depending on how many members a department had in order to ensure they all received the same training.

By 2007, the event had grown to its current full week setup, and in 2012, it was merged with the National Volunteer Fire Council’s (NVFC) National Firefighter Health Week for a coordinated safety movement across national organizations.

What are the objectives of the Firefighter Safety Stand Down?

The primary objective of the Firefighter Safety Stand Down is to reduce the number of preventable injuries and deaths among firefighters. This is achieved by fostering an environment that promotes safety through awareness, education and direct involvement in safety-focused activities. The week encourages fire departments to examine the safety protocols that are in place, identify areas of improvement and implement safety measures that can protect firefighters during emergency operations.

What topics are covered during the Firefighter Safety Stand Down?

Each year, the Firefighter Safety Stand Down focuses on a specific theme related to firefighter safety. These themes are chosen to reflect current issues and trends within the fire service that require attention. Some topics covered in past stand downs:

  • Cancer prevention strategies
  • Electric vehicle fire tactics and education
  • Behavioral health and resources to support mental wellbeing
  • The importance of proper usage and maintenance of PPE
  • Safe driving practices for emergency vehicles

These topics not only highlight critical safety issues but also encourage ongoing education and the adoption of best practices.

How has the Firefighter Safety Stand Down evolved over time?

Since its inception, the Firefighter Safety Stand Down has evolved significantly. Initially, the program focused heavily on physical aspects of safety, such as the correct handling of equipment and the physical demands of firefighting. Over time, the initiative has expanded to include mental health, a recognition of the high stress and emotional toll firefighting can take on individuals.

The evolution of the Stand Down also reflects changes in technology and firefighting techniques, such as the program’s focus in 2023 on the dangers of electric vehicle fires. As new equipment and methods become available, the Stand Down has adapted to include these innovations in its training programs. This ensures that firefighters are not only safe but are also at the cutting edge of firefighting technology and strategy.

What impact has the Firefighter Safety Stand Down had on the fire service?

The Firefighter Safety Stand Down has had a profound and lasting impact on the fire service, helping to foster a culture of safety among firefighters. Many fire departments report that the annual stand downs have led to a better understanding of safety practices and a reduction in the number of injuries and fatalities.

Moreover, the Stand Down has increased collaboration and sharing of best practices between departments. This communal approach has enhanced the overall effectiveness of firefighting operations and safety protocols nationwide.

How can fire departments participate in the Firefighter Safety Stand Down?

Participation in the Firefighter Safety Stand Down is open to all fire departments, both volunteer and career. Departments can access a wealth of resources including training materials, safety checklists, and activity ideas tailored to the year’s theme. By participating, departments commit to dedicating time during the Stand Down week to focus exclusively on themed safety training and education.

Taking place each year during the third full week of June, the Safety Stand Down highlights critical safety, health and survival issues for fire and emergency services personnel. The Stand Down is sponsored by the NVFC, NFPA, IAFF, FDSOA and IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section.