Savannah Fire & Emergency Services will be participating in the annual International Fire and EMS Safety and Health Week June 16th – 22nd.
The week-long observance is sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and encourages participating fire departments to suspend all nonemergency activities during the week and focus on safety and health training and education. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend at least one full day focused on these critical issues.
It is important to note that all emergency response functions will continue as usual during the week. Only non-emergency activities, such as routine facility maintenance, will be suspended. All department training hours will be focused on health and safety issues.
This year’s international effort will capture the importance of responders taking responsibility of their own and each other’s mental and physical well-being. A major focus of the campaign will be behavioral health issues, a topic that many people still see as taboo in the hardcharging world of emergency response. But many departments struggle with those issues.
“The mental and emotional well-being of our first responders is as important as their physical health,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “It is time we recognize that these issues have a critical impact on health and safety, and ignoring this puts our personnel at risk. The fire service community needs to understand these issues and remove the barriers to meeting the behavioral health needs of personnel.”
The number of lineof duty deaths in the United States has declined in recent years, in part because of awareness and training programs like this one. However, according to data collected by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), stress, exertion, and other medicalrelated issues, which usually result in heart attacks or other sudden cardiac events, continue to account for the largest number of fatalities. “Our responders are under unprecedented pressure,” said IAFC President Hank Clemmensen. “It’s time we have some unprecedented conversations about how that impacts our health.”