Firefighter safety key part of state's new initiative

Friday, April 27, 2007

Thanks to the persistance of Bill Newgent, firefighters across the state have a new initiative to follow.

Recently, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's Firefighter Training System, in cooperation with Indiana Fire Chief's Association, Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana, Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association, Indiana Fire Instructors Association, and the Indiana Firefighters Association unveiled the Indiana SAFE Fire Service Initiative.

"It talks about firefighter safety," the Greencastle Fire Chief told the BannerGraphic. "The bottom line is we lose quite a few firefighters each year in the line of duty."

Newgent is also the president of the IFCA.

The initiative is modeled after the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation 16 life safety guidelines that were designed to reduce line of duty death and injuries that occur to firefighters, including:

  • Define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety; incorporating leadership, management, supervision, accountability and personal responsibility,

  • Enhance the personal and organizational accountability for health and safety throughout the fire service,

  • Focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels, including strategic, tactical, and planning responsibilities,

  • All firefighters must be empowered to stop unsafe practices,

  • Develop and implement national standards for training, qualifications, and certification (including regular recertification) that are equally applicable to all firefighters based on the duties they are expected to perform,

  • Develop and implement national medical and physical fitness standards that are equally applicable to all firefighters, based on the duties they are expected to perform,

  • Create a national research agenda and data collection system that relates to the initiatives,

  • Utilize available technology wherever it can produce higher levels of health and safety,

  • Thoroughly investigate all firefighter fatalities, injuries and near misses,

  • Grant programs should support the implementation of safe practices and/or mandate safe practices as an eligibility requirement,

  • National standards for emergency response policies and procedures should be developed and championed,

  • National protocols for response to violent incidents should be developed and championed,

  • Firefighters and their families must have access to counseling and psychological support,

  • Public education must receive more resources and be championed as a critical fire and life safety program,

  • Advocacy must be strengthened for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers, and

  • Safety must be a primary consideration in the design of apparatus and equipment.

    "We're trying to encourage fire chiefs and administrations across the state to implement these," Newgent said.

    According to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the United States Fire Administration established the objective to reduce the number of firefighter fatalities by 24 percent within five years, and by 50 percent within 10 years.

    The initiative will also include the development of safety related posters, website information, newsletters to help firefighters and officers make better decisions about health and welfare and a webcast program to educate firefighters and officers about dangers faced every day.

    The Indiana Fire Instructors Association will coordinate the webcast programs.

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