2012 LODDs: Why I'm optimistic and how we can improve

The numbers are certainly trending down, yet there's work to be done and these are the key areas of focus

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel gives a tip of the helmet to the downward trending line-of-duty death statistics and urges us to focus on key areas to further reduce those numbers.

I guess, like many firefighters, I'm a bit superstitious. As a result, I've been reluctant to call the reduction we've seen in firefighter fatalities over the past several years a trend per se.

Given the recent release of 2012 provisional data from the U.S. Fire Administration, however, it seems likely that the many efforts — across the fire and emergency services — to reduce firefighter fatalities have contributed to a sustainable reduction in the always-tragic loss of our brothers and sisters.

That's certainly cause for optimism and appreciation (for all the individuals and groups who've worked so hard on this problem). But I also feel strongly that we must keep up the pressure, on ourselves and others, to continue pushing down both firefighter deaths and injuries in 2013 and beyond.

The statistics from 2012 suggest some continued areas of emphasis.

Cardiac and overall health and wellness
Look, by now we all know the risk factors for cardiac-related illness, injury and death. From experience, I know it's difficult to consistently workout, eat a nutritious diet, maintain a healthy weight, etc. But as we see over and over in the stories on this website, as well as in the available data, it has to be a priority for all of us in this business — career and volunteer.

Behavioral health
While not explicitly identified as a causal factor in these data on firefighter fatalities, there's so much research now on the persistent and debilitating psychological/physiological effects, on firefighters and EMS providers, of critical incident stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. We must take the behavioral health of our brothers and sisters very seriously as a contributing factor in line-of-duty deaths and injuries, as well as off-duty events and overall quality-of-life beyond the firehouse.

As mentioned in the USFA press release, the number of firefighter deaths attributed to vehicle collisions actually trended up in 2012. That's undoubtedly a cause for concern, especially since we have a relatively high degree of control over what (and how) we drive, ride or fly.

Please keep up the good work and stay safe in 2013!

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