Take Steps to Create a Culture of Safety

This week is International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, a time to focus on what you can do to Create a Culture of Safety in your community, your department, and for yourself. Use this week to take permanent steps towards creating a safe environment in and out of the station and implement safe and healthy practices for the long-term.
Emergency response is a dangerous job. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 97 firefighters died in the line of duty in 2013 and 65,880 were injured. Studies have shown that firefighters are at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and behavioral health issues such as PTSD.
Creating a Culture of Safety emphasizes both the need to change attitudes and behaviors to foster an environment that embraces safety and the need to proactively reduce risk. The entire fire and emergency service community can work together to eliminate preventable tragedy and minimize the immediate and long-term risks of emergency response.
Creating an overall safety of culture encompasses three key areas: community, department, and individual. Focusing on what you can do in each of these areas is critical to building a stronger, more resilient, and more efficient fire service and protecting our firefighters, EMTs, and rescue workers.  
Community: The best fire is one that never happens. Creating a culture of safety within the community – where codes are enforced, fire sprinklers are utilized, and risks are reduced – will lead to fewer fires and fewer calls for fire response. This in turn reduces risk to firefighters and EMTs from vehicle crashes during response, exposure to toxins that can cause cancer and other illnesses, and dangerous working conditions resulting from large fires.
Department: Creating a culture of safety within the department is critical to protecting personnel. Changing the department culture starts with leadership. Policies and procedures that advance safety must be implemented and enforced, safe and healthy practices should be accepted by and expected of personnel, and safety should be a critical component of all training and all fireground and vehicle operations.
Individual: Personal accountability is a key component of keeping firefighters and emergency responders safe. Each individual must take responsibility for following SOPs and SOGs, prioritizing safety and health, and lessening their own risks. This includes proper use and maintenance of PPE to prevent exposure and reduce cancer risks, managing heart health through fitness and nutrition, and seeking help if experiencing behavioral health issues.
The NVFC is here to help you and your department be your B.E.S.T., with programs, tools, and resources that address Behavior, Equipment, Standards and Codes, and Training. Learn more and access these resources on the NVFC web site.
The Safety and Health Week web site also has information and resources to help you focus on what you can do in the community, as a department, and for yourself to Create a Culture of Safety.
While this week is designed to help you focus on safety and health education and training, Creating a Culture of Safety isn’t something that can be done in a week. Keep the momentum going all year long by adopting long-term changes that improve safety and health for yourself, your department, and your community. Together we will make a difference.