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When we hear the phrase, “saving our own,” many of us probably think about the actions a Rapid Intervention Team may take to rescue Fire/EMS personnel on the fire ground. What I want to focus on in this writing is saving our own off duty.

 

On the job, each of us feels a sense of comfort in knowing one of our crew members has our back. We should feel the same sense of comfort when we are hanging out together or off duty. With the holiday season upon us, many of us will participate in social gatherings like fire department socials, celebrations, sporting events, or charitable functions, etc. Some of these events may involve the consumption of alcohol. Social drinking requires one to be a responsible drinker. When drinkers fail to drink responsibly, it can lead to problems.

 

There is no reason for any one of us to drive home intoxicated or for any one of us to allow one of our own to drive home intoxicated; if we are aware they may have had too much to drink. When our friends have had too much to drink, in many cases, they will tell us they are okay to drive, but they cannot reasonably make that call if they are under the influence of alcohol. Having the presence of mind to identify these folks and make sure they get to their destination safely or can be accommodated for the night may prevent a disaster from occurring. If we know a friend or family member has had too much to drink, we are just as responsible to ensure they do not hurt themselves or others.

 

Some results of irresponsible drinking and driving:

  • One of our own gets killed in an accident due to their drunken driving
  • One of our own kills someone else
  • Loss of driver’s license
  • Loss of job
  • Psychological and emotional impact
  • Residual impact on others
  • Property damage
  • Financial impact
  • Loss of respect and trust
  • Loss of positive reputation

As a party host, you bear some responsibilities in ensuring drinkers do not leave your event and get behind the wheel of a vehicle if they are impaired. An effective host will take actions in the front end of their celebration to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all.

Smart Party Host Actions:

  • Collect car keys on entry, and only return keys to individuals who are safe to drive
  • Identify reliable designated drivers
  • Have friends or family members drive drinkers home
  • Call drinkers a cab
  • Make accommodations for drinkers to stay in your home
  • Control the drinker’s intake if they are out of control
  • Host at a hotel, so overnight accommodations are available

 

In a split second, irresponsible drinking and driving can lead to life changing events. We pick too many drunken driving victims off the streets. Let’s not pick up our own or have our own cause us to pick up someone else. Think before you drink!

 

This time of year is a time for celebrating for many, but it can also be a sad and difficult time for others for a variety of reasons. Those struggling with depression or other mental/behavioral health issues may be in crisis. Where public safety culture once believed members were too proud to admit they may need help, today, we know more about the cumulative and chronic stressors our jobs place on us and the negative impacts they can have. More is known today about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Peer support and Traumatic Exposure Recovery Programs (TERP) are being explored and created specifically to help our members cope, to invest in their well-being, and to encourage them to seek early help and intervention when they may be struggling. Some may be hiding or denying their struggles; while others may not be able to ask for the help they need or may not fully understand what is happening to them.

 

The public safety family is just that, family. We spend so much time with our second family that we get to know each other very well. We share highs and lows, we laugh and cry, and sometimes we just get on each other’s nerves. We know when someone is having a bad day. We recognize when someone is behaving differently, when they’re isolated, acting out, upset, or are simply behaving out of character. It is important we recognize these behavioral changes and question them by checking in or at least report them to our supervisor for follow up. It may be the difference between early intervention to provide assistance or ignoring signs that can result in an unfortunate and preventable suicide.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs, alcohol, increased stress, PTSD, or other mental or behavioral health issues, seek immediate assistance from your department’s Employee Aid Program, Peer Support Team, or from one of the resources below. Your life matters, help is available, and you don’t have to face your struggles alone.  Things can and do get better.

 

Remember, saving our own is a team effort.

 

Resources:

 

www.iaffrecoverycenter.com

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

 

NICK J. SALAMEH is a retired Fire/Emergency Medical Services Captain II and previous Training Program Manager for the Arlington County (VA) Fire Department, with which he served 31 years of his more than 36 years in the fire service. He served as chair of the Northern Virginia Fire Departments Training Committee. Nick is a contributor to Fire Engineering Magazine, www.fireengineering.comand Stop Believing Start Knowing, https://www.facebook.com/StopBelievingStartKnowing/.

 

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