The International Fire/EMS Safety & Health Week is an annual event, designed to increase awareness and reduce the risk of injury among emergency responders. The 2014 event will take place from June 15-21 and will focus on the theme “Train Like You Fight.” This theme was chosen in order increase responder safety on the training ground while ensuring that responders are adequately prepared for live emergency situations.
The National Volunteer Fire Council and the International Fire Chiefs Association, both co-sponsors of the event, have encouraged fire departments to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety & Health Week in order to focus on training and education. The event has been scheduled for a full week to ensure that all shifts and duty crew can participate.
Available on the official Safety & Health Week website is a series of resources, designed both for training, and promotion of the event. Included in the training resources section are a number of programs, studies, and online courses, all geared towards improving safety conditions during training, and improving health among responders. For Fire and EMS departments who are participating in the event, the planning section of the website includes free downloadable promotional material, activity ideas, sample press releases, and more.
It is no secret that emergency responders face physical and psychological stress each day on the job. However the co-sponsors of Safety & Health week believe that with safer, more complete training, we can reduce preventable injury and death in fire and emergency services.
For more information about the event, visit the official Safety & Health Week website. For more information about health and safety among responders, read our blog, Improving Heart Health for Firefighters.
The number one cause of death for firefighters on the scene is heart and blood vessel disease, causing an average of one death per week. Even more cases occur away from work. Take a look at these alarming statistics, according to a Harvard University Study:
- Firefighters are 12 to 136 times more likely to die of heart disease when putting out a fire.
- Firefighters are 3 to 14 times more likely to die of heart disease while responding to an alarm.
- Firefighters are 2 to 10.5 times more likely to die of heart disease while returning from an alarm.
- Firefighters are 3 to 7 times more likely to die of heart disease during physical training
These numbers caused the NVFC to launch their Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program in 2003 to combat this alarming trend through education, awareness, and resources. The NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program is a national program dedicated to saving America’s firefighters and EMS personnel. Their Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program promotes fitness, nutrition, and health awareness for all members of the fire and emergency services, both volunteer and career. The program offers multiple resources including cookbooks, workshops and fitness challenges.
On the scene, firefighters deal with extreme heat and exertion and are exposed to toxic substances and psychological stress. These all can have severe repercussions on an already weakened heart. It is important to take the necessary steps to improve the health of your heart. The longer you can live healthy, the longer you can do the job that you love.
What steps are you taking to improve your heart health?
June 16-22, 2013 has been designated as Fire and EMS Safety and Health Week. The purpose of devoting a whole week to this important issue is to allow all shifts and personnel to participate in at least one day of training. All non-emergency activity this week may be postponed to allow firefighters the opportunity to focus on safety and health training and education that concentrate on the critical issues that can affect first responders.
The theme this year is “Saving Our Own…An Inside Job” and provides an emphasis on mental health issues commonly faced by firefighter and EMS personnel. While the physical effects of being a first responder are well known, the mental well-being of these men and women are just as important. Several tools and resources are available at www.safetyandhealweek.org to help you initiate Safety and Health Week in your department this week and throughout the year!
A recent study of Seattle-area firehouses by University of Washington researchers found that the stubborn MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can lead to severe infections, can be transmitted by fire station personnel. MRSA is associated with approximately 19,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because fire personnel interact with both hospitals and the population in general, the MRSA bacteria can be carried between the two.
The study, published in the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, indicates that the MRSA bacteria is found most “in the medic trucks, kitchens, and other areas such as computer keyboards and computer desks.” Medic trucks were the most common area.
Researchers aimed to determine whether the MRSA strains were related to hospital or community strains. Their conclusion: both types can contaminate fire station surfaces.
As a result of this study, the Emergency Management and Response – Information Sharing and Analysis Center has provided a list of recommendations to protect responding personnel from a potentially serious or life-threatening infection.
What to Do:
- Utilize cleaning agents correctly.
- Filter air in stations.
- Confine turnout gear to work areas.
- Reduce the risk of carrying MRSA home by leaving station wear at the station and wash after use.
- Install disinfectant hand gel dispensers at key points between bays and the station. Or install sinks in apparatus bays.
- Have 9-1-1 dispatchers ask if anyone has flu-like symptoms, then wear masks, goggles and gloves when entering a home.
- Replace cloth surfaces with hard surfaces wherever possible.
- Do not share hand towels.
For a complete list of suggestions: http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/infograms/23_11.pdf