4 Easy Ways to Make Your Fire Agency Safer During NFPW 2018
Every year for almost 90 years, the beginning of October – specifically the week surrounding October 8 – has been set aside to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and to remind both fire agencies and the public about the importance of fire safety and prevention. Partnering with the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and fire stations across the country, the annual National Fire Prevention Week (NFPW) promotion rolls out numerous free resources, tools for educating communities, tips for working with the media, and an overall ready-to-run campaign reiterating the message of fire preparedness and safety.
The 2018 campaign – which is currently running from Oct. 7-13, 2018 – places particular emphasis on home fires, with the theme: “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” According to the NFPA, this focus was chosen based on the somewhat surprising statistic that the fire death rate for home fires today is actually 10% higher than it was in 1980. Organizers explain that, while firefighting technologies and procedures have advanced substantially over the years, the importance of educating communities must remain a top priority.
NFPW can also be the perfect opportunity for fire agencies and their team members to pause and do a quick self-check on their own safety standards and priorities. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the station, combined with the high rate of responses and the ever-present list of administrative duties, it can be easy to go months or even years without setting aside time to review current safety practices and brainstorm new ways to proactively make safety a focus. Here are 4 easy ways to use National Fire Prevention Week as a chance to promote safety within your fire agency.
Review and revamp your training routine.
Training is a necessary part of life in the fire station, and it’s easy to get bogged down with monotony of the same old schedule. Take time to refresh your approach to training, including looking at your own internal team for new resources. Informally poll your teams to see who might have an interest in training, or open up the channels of communication for new ideas and topics. Consider rotating the responsibility of planning and setting up various training days, allowing different team members the chance to head one up from start to finish. Look for new onsite opportunities that get your team out into the community they serve and add diversity to your schedule.
Partner up for the intangibles.
The value of a veteran’s experience cannot be overstated on the fire field. Use NFPW as a chance to match up partners within your team in an informal buddy system, pairing your newbies each with a veteran. The extent of the partnership can be small – a one-time conversation – or more extensive, like ensuring the newbie shadows the veteran on all calls for a certain amount of time. While it can be difficult for a veteran to download all his or her valuable experiences or stories in one sitting, encouraging the partners to work together consistently can help ensure that knowledge never recorded in books or training manuals will be passed down to the next generation of firefighters.
Modernize your administrative duties.
No one likes to be stuck behind a desk with a mountain of paperwork. Today’s fire stations actually have a long list of fire-specific software tools that can make the administrative aspect of agency administration easier and more efficient. For example, software tools today can automate and track and alert you on all of your team’s personnel files, including their training records, continuing education, and even vaccinations. Other technologies help ensure the records – like building inspections or patient care records from your EMTs – are consistent and complete, thanks to easy-to-use, step-by-step digital forms that can be completed on portable devices. Cleaning up and increasing efficiencies in these small tasks can make a big impact on your team’s overall effectiveness, compliance, and safety.
Encourage self-care for your team members.
Every firefighter knows the danger he or she faces when rushing to respond; the potential of death and risk to personal safety is an ever-present element on the fire field. However, it’s important to remind your team members to take good care of themselves away from the emergencies as well. Sadly, diseases like cancer and stress-related sudden cardiac death are actually among the leading causes of death for firefighters. Consider ways to promote health awareness on your team, whether it’s promoting warning signs or scheduling guest speakers to come talk to your team as a training. Look for ways to ensure open communication is encouraged and understood, so that any health concerns from your team members can find appropriate help and education.
Firefighter safety can mean so much more than the latest and greatest personal safety devices. Safety can be promoted in countless ways at the fire station and make a real impact in the overall health and wellbeing of the team. Healthier and safer firefighters undoubtedly mean a safer community, and NFPW is the perfect chance to ensure first responders are at their best to help others by proactively helping themselves.