This week's IAFC, IAFC-SHS and NVFC "Safety Stand Down," is one of the most important activities you can participate in, not only as an active career, volunteer or P-O-C firefighter, but as a retired one, as well. Why? Because a good number of the numerous health hazards we are currently facing, have been around for quite a while; many from long before we knew the dangers that they held.
While it is true that new combinations of certain chemicals are being used today in everything from pots and pans to building materials, everything that burns has always created dangerous materials that we could either breathe in when off-air or absorb, when we strip off the bunker gear to perform overhaul.
OK, I'm a "dinosaur," and damn proud to say it. And as many of you know, I love the fire service, even though I was forced out due to an injury over 35 years ago. But that doesn't mean that I didn't suck down or absorbed plenty of crap during my eight years of firefighting. And what about my family? What did "Daddy bring home" to the wife and kids? My wife is a two time cancer survivor and I thank the good Lord every day for that. But I also wonder, was it my fault?
If you're a retiree or off the job for another reason, ask yourself this question, "Did your physician ever examine you knowing you were a firefighter?" If the answer is either, "Nope," or "I can't remember," then this week is the perfect opportunity for you to get examine the right way for a firefighter!
Under the ABOUT tab on this website, you'll see a page labeled, "Links for You." There you can download either the IAFF's Individualized Health Risk Appraisal Form or the NVFC's "Position on Firefighter Assessments." Download it, print it and take it with you at your next scheduled physical. Don't have one scheduled? Then call the office and make an appointment.
Almost every one of the 1.2 million firefighters in this country is aware of the tolls that cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease is taking on the fire service. Just read any of our terrific trade journals each month and you'll see that somewhere between 50%-60% of LODD's are attributable to most likely preventable health issues.
And while you're at it, even if you're in great physical and fit-for-duty condition, how are you doing emotionally? Are the job, the hours, the lack of sleep, horrific scenes or finances driving you to not be the real you? If so, this week is also a great time for you to reach out for behavioral health care. There are lots of folks who stand ready to either welcome you in or accept your call, to help you through any emotional turbulence you're going through.
We don't want to see you become a statistic. Last year, we lost more firefighters to suicide than to all the other causes of LODD's, combined! We can't and won't tolerate those numbers any longer. From your department to your church/synagogue, from your physician to behavioral health professionals, there are people to talk with and they're ready to help.
While this week's theme is "Safety Stand Down," let's all stand up to facing the fact that this job that we love and hold so dear, does take a toll on us. Let's stand up and learn how we're really doing, where we need improvement and so often, how simple that improvement can be.
Stay Safe Out There!
Steve Greene is the president of 5-Alarm Task Force Corp., a 501 (c) (3), non-profit company and the Creator/Host of the "5-Alarm Task Force" podcast.