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Wow! There were 114 Line of Duty Deaths for 2008. Did you see the statistics? So many categories, so many stats. Tucked inside those numbers are the stories, brief as they are, of how those firefighters died in the line of duty. Pennsylvania was tied for second with Oregon in LODDs behind North Carolina. It sickens me to have to state it that way, but however its said, the fact remains the same. Here in PA, we have had 203 fire departments suffer at least 1 lodd. That's about 10% of our State's total fire service. Hmmm, 10%, another statistic. That number goes up when you take into consideration those fire departments who have suffered multiple lodds. I have looked and read the stats for each year since 1977. I have read the line of duty death reports, not all of them, mind you. I have often wondered that perhaps if we had a sexy ESPN or Fox Sports Analyst give us the breakdown of all of those stats, would we then get it? Maybe that would help us get to solutions to minimizing lodds. Imagine for a minute, " Fire Dept. A has been having a tough year. They have suffered 2 lodds this year, but their coach, Chief So & So, states that "While we have suffered those losses, we'll acknowledge them and we'll move on." "Its the nature of the business". "We know going into this business, that something like this could happen." So what do you think is needed coach? "Well, we're going to address getting back to the basics, work on our physical fitness and focus better on our pre-planning for the next one". There you have it folks, back to the basics, physical fitness and more pre-planning. That's how Chief So & So is getting back to the winning track. This is Suzy Suzy Q reporting. Just my imagination, there. How about this analogy? When you look at that 10% figure that I mentioned with the PA lodds, look at it as being taxed upon. Line of duty deaths place a burden upon us, much like those taxes do. What happens when they raise taxes on us? History tells us that we have rebelled with the Boston Tea Party, and that we have voted out of office those politicians who have made their legacy with regards to raising taxes. Well, when do we rebell against these line of duty deaths? I don't care how many times you break down a death into a statistic. The reality is as firefighters, we die due to two general reasons; Medical reasons or traumatic reasons. It's that simple. Are stats needed? Yes. For clarity purposes and better understanding. But do I need to know that FF Doe died on a Tuesday at 1700 hours? What if we had 10 ffs die on Tuesdays at 1700 hours? Will we stop going to incidents on Tuesdays at 1700 hours? We can come up with any statistic you want. I believe we are getting lost in them. So much so that we running the risk of being forgetful when we place those 1%, 2% , and 25% numbers on the back burner only to have them repeated again in another line of duty death. Sure we say we will never forget the firefighter(s) who gave the ultimate sacrifice. But, in the meantime, we forget how they died. I say this because we are dying the same way we did 31 years ago when the United States Fire Administration started to keep these stats. I won't list all of the categories here, visit their website. You'll see it. My brothers and sisters, we need some solutions. Why is that we are dying the same way each year? In the same numbers? 44-50% stress related, 25% vehicle crashes, 24% Trauma related and so on. We have to stop this insanity. The definition of insanity, as I am told by a wise friend of mine, is we keep doing something wrong the same way over, over and over again and expecting different results. Are we insane? The stats reflect that. You see, for the past 31 years, there have been only 4 years where our lodd's were under 100. Since 1998, it only occurred once, in that year. But, I know better. You know better. The industries that support us know better. They have provided us with some solutions. They have improved our helmets, our bunker gear, and gloves. They have given us thermal imagers, and gas monitors. They gave us p.a.s.s. devices that we had to turn on, then they made them integrated so we wouldn't forget to turn them on. We didn't pay attention to our mainline regulators and before you knew it, we only had 5 minutes to get out of the bldg. Well they provided us the ability to see our air supply inside our facepiece and it can even figure out our rate of breathing and figure out how fast we are consuming our air supply. These solutions have come with associated costs, none greater than the cost of those firefighters lives lost before they were made. When you read a lodd report from the U.S.F.A., under the lessons learned, you find stuff like no use of an accountability system, lack of an incident command structure, inefficiencies in risk assessment, no pre-plan availability, lack of fire inspections, or building knowledge, lack of communications, etc. Then you read the stats associated with these deaths. Lack of physical fitness, lack of physicals, lack of driver's training programs. How is it that we kill ffs by backing over them? If you don't see your spotter, stop the truck! Get out and find him/her! Why would you think its safe to do otherwise? There are more solutions out there. I don't think that they can be more clearer, because they are repeated in nearly every lodd report. It is time for those solutions to be implemented. Responsibility is one of the keys here. As firefighters we need to take some personal responsibility and stay fit. As officers, we have to be responsible to our personnel. We do physical fitness in the academy. Does it remain with us when we get to a regular house? It should. How about we walk around our districts, get our p.t. in and get some pre-planning in also, as we walk and talk. If we don't have a fire inspection program, how about we get one? It may take some work like writing and adopting ordinances and taking more training. But, if it saves one life, did we get a return on our investment of time? The late and great Francis Brannigan said it best, "Know the building!" "The building is your enemy!" We have to take it to the next level and see what's inside those buildings and what's not. We need physical fitness programs. We need better fire prevention work. We need speed and seatbelt infractions disciplined and we need to take a closer look at how we respond to some of the incidents we respond to. I think the remaining solutions are up to us as a fire service. There is no better time to implement them than now. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to each other. Did you ever ride or walk under the ladder arches during a funeral? I did. It chilled by bones! I didn't know him, just knew of him. What the reality was is that it could have been me or one of my friends. It could have been you. I'll end this book of a blog with this. My resolution for the new year? Find more solutions to reduce firefighter lodds. I found some and implemented one for myself. I'll try to find and do more. I'll need help, though. Here's to a very safer 2009!

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