A fallen firefighter is more than a number or a statistic. They are a person who lost their life performing a job we love. Their death impacts their family, fellow firefighters, their organization, and the community they serve. Never forgetting is more than a patch, a T-shirt, or a monument. As we enter 2016 let us remember those that have fallen in the line of duty. Out of the 366 days in 2016 there are 288 days that coincide with a date of a NIOSH LODD report. Honoring a firefighter who has fallen on that date is a way to truly never forget.
2016 NIOSH Report Calendar
Since 1998 NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has investigated all duty related firefighter deaths. This is an impartial fact finding mission. Many of these investigations have resulted in NIOSH Line of Duty Death reports. The reports are free for downloading at: www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/. These reports have served as a valuable tool for many classes and can also serve as a daily devotional to honor our fallen brothers and sisters.
A member of the company can reference the calendar of NIOSH Line of Duty death reports and download a report for an upcoming duty day. The duty day can be dedicated in honor of the fallen individual(s). NIOSH reports do not contain an agency's name or the firefighter's name but it does have the incident date and the state. A quick internet search of a firefighter fatality on that date, in that state will often produce a wealth of information; photographs of the individuals, news reports, and videos from the scene. The name of an organization or individual changes a sterile report and makes it personal. In some cases the agency has done extensive research and reporting of information to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. Phoenix and Colerain Township are just a few organizations that have provided extensive information on their line of duty incidents.
Don’t be disrespectful. Often times we are too quick to place blame, to say it will never happen here or to create excuses to distance ourselves from the incident. There are always learning opportunities. Allow these reports to serve as a guide for the day. Look at how the organization is similar to yours. Look at how the incident is similar to incidents you have run. Find ways to pay respect. It is obvious that a set of unfortunate circumstances added up to create a firefighter fatality. That was not planned. None of us plan on dying in a fire. However, departments large and small, and even ones with a wealth of experience are encountering line of duty deaths.
We owe it to the fallen to take time to prepare. Print the report a couple days before the shift. Read and know the report. Conduct further research. The report can incorporate your organization’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), a piece of equipment, the discussion of how the structure or incident is similar to one that occurred within your organization. Do more than discuss the incident. Relate it to your organization and discuss how to prevent it. Conduct some additional training. The training sessions do not need to be led by the company officer. Reports can be delegated to other members of the company to get everyone personally invested in the project.
Every little bit counts. If a crew reviews one NIOSH report a month, they have honored at least 12 firefighters. If they do one a week they have honored at least 52 firefighters.