There’s much more to protecting a firefighter’s health and safety than helmets and coats. Keeping first responders safe while they save lives requires effort on multiple fronts.
Some strategies include using science to create the safest possible environment and give crews the tools they need to succeed. Safety also involves adopting the most advanced medical practices to prevent overexertion and keep firefighters in the best shape possible. The technical side of these practices involves utilizing the most effective practices and protocols to ensure optimal results. Finally, emergency personnel must have the emotional and mental support to be in the right frame of mind to handle any situation.
Although this makes firefighter safety and survival a complicated subject, there are some basic concepts that are worth reviewing for any chief. What follows is a basic overview of some of the most common dangers that men and women in your fire department may face, as well as some general tips to help keep them safe.
Common Firefighter Hazards
Smoke and flames are just two of the many threats that firefighters encounter in the line of duty. Of course, burning buildings are not the only situations to which they are called to respond, and each of the following scenarios presents a unique set of challenges. Here are some of the most common:
- Smoke/heat inhalation: Lungs can be damaged by inhaling not only smoke during a blaze, but also superheated air.
- Burns: The extreme temperatures and proximity to open flames make protective gear an absolute necessity.
- Hazardous chemicals: When responding to chemical spills or incidents involving other dangerous materials, emergency crews can be exposed to noxious fumes or substances that can burn exposed skin.
- Physical injuries: Fires can cause blasts that can send shrapnel of glass, metal and wood in all directions. Lacerations and contusions are common risks for firefighters.
- Falls: Buildings can be extremely unstable while they burn, putting responders at risk of falling if the floor suddenly collapses beneath them.
- Loud noises: One of the most underappreciated dangers to firefighters is the risk of hearing loss caused by extremely loud sounds, such as explosions.
- Stress and depression: Long after the fires are extinguished and the hoses rolled up, the psychological effects of the work can have a serious impact on a firefighter’s state of mind. This puts the individual and his or her teammates at risk.
Tips to Improve Safety
Although there are many dangers that fire departments face, leadership can help put their personnel in a better position to navigate these risks safely. A few simple strategies include:
- Creating a culture around safety: It isn’t enough to post regulations and provide the proper gear. Every member of the department from the top down must be encouraged to follow safety protocols every day. This includes empowering employees to speak up and hold others accountable for unsafe behavior.
- Emphasizing proper training programs: Adhering to OSHA regulations regarding appropriate health and safety training is crucial. Make sure your department provides comprehensive programs regarding the use of equipment.
- Setting the example: It is the responsibility of the chief to make it clear what is expected of each and every member of the team. However, leaders also need to demonstrate the right behavior at all times, providing clear examples of the proper protocols in every aspect of the job.
Doing Our Part
Positive pressure ventilation (PPV) is a crucial component of any firefighter safety program. BlowHard fans are lightweight and easy to position, yet ultra-powerful to provide proper ventilation to keep responders safe. To learn more about our products and capabilities, check out our solutions here.