The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) have announced the theme for the 2011 Safety, Health, and Survival Week (Safety Week): Surviving the Fire Ground – Firefighter, Fire Officer, and Command Preparedness. Safety Week, which will be held June 19-25, is a collaborative program sponsored by the IAFC and the IAFF and coordinated by the IAFC Safety, Health, and Survival Section and the IAFF Division of Occupational Health, Safety, and Medicine, in partnership with more than 20 national fire service organizations including the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC).
Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety Week and instead focus entirely on survival training and education until all shifts and personnel have taken part. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend one day focusing on these critical issues.
With so many changes (including budget cuts, staffing reductions, reduced training, and more) in so many fire departments, it’s critical for firefighters to focus on their own survival on the fireground. There’s no other call more challenging to fireground operations than a mayday call - the unthinkable moment when a firefighter’s personal safety is in imminent danger.
Firefighter fatality data compiled by the U.S. Fire Administration has shown that firefighters “becoming trapped and disoriented represent the largest portion of structural fireground fatalities.” The incidents in which firefighters have lost their lives or lived to tell about it have a consistent theme - inadequate situational awareness put them at risk.
Firefighters don’t plan to be lost, disoriented, injured, or trapped during a structure fire or emergency incident. But fires are unpredictable and volatile, and they don’t always go according to plan. What a firefighter knows about a fire before entering a blazing building may radically change within minutes once inside the structure. Smoke, low visibility, lack of oxygen, structural instability, and an unpredictable fireground can cause even the most seasoned firefighter to be overwhelmed in an instant.
This year’s Safety Week will focus on delivering the IAFF's online Fire Ground Survival Program (FGS) awareness training course to all fire departments. The FGS is a comprehensive survival-skills and mayday-prevention program available to all members of the fire service. Find out more about FGS at www.iaff.org/hs/fgs/fgsindex.htm.
Learn more and find planning tools and resources on the Safety Week web site. Find additional resources for health, wellness, and safety on the NVFC web site at www.nvfc.org/health_safety and the NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program web site.