By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer
In the online publishing world, my editors use the term evergreen to describe a past article, that with a bit of tweaking (updating), is still highly relevant enough to use again.
In the past few months, as I was tasked with tweaking a couple of my past articles for new posting, I started looking back at some of my post blogs here on Talking “Shop” 4 Fire and EMS and I found more than a few evergreens in my forest.
Why are these three terms still relevant for fire service organizations? Why are fire departments, and the communities they serve, still putting themselves in the public eye and paying big dollar settlements because leadership up and down the organization didn’t do their jobs?
These are not problems that can be solved by training or education of personnel. That ship “should have sailed” for most fire departments by now. Only good leadership from the fire chief to the company officer is going to work.
Some people refer to these incidents as social media-assisted career suicide (SMACS) while others use the term cybercasualties when referring to firefighters and fire officers getting in trouble of all kinds because of what they post or share on social media.
With too many firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMS personnel ending their own lives via suicide I think we in public safety should stop using the word suicide in any context other than someone taking their own life.
Come on folks, it’s 2020 and social media has been around how long? If your fire department does not have a social media use policy and your people are not informed and educated about every aspect of it, particularly the consequences for noncompliance, you’re only a post or tweet away from your next organizational crisis.
This article from my fellow blogger, fire service colleague, lawyer, and retired chief officer, Curt Verone, More Cybercasualties in South Carolina Over BLM Posts, is certainly an evergreen in my book. Posted in July 2016, it’s not only still relevant regarding inappropriate use of social media by firefighters and officers, but perhaps an evergreen more so because #BlackLivesMatter, and the underlying systemic racism in our country, is still a very real and relevant issue in August 2020.
And just to show that the inappropriate use of social media by firefighters and officers is not getting any better, Verone posted Firefighter Social Media Toll Continues to Rise in June of 2020 that provides an update and overview the social media use by firefighters and officers that continues to get people “jammed up.”
Cancer Risk Reduction
Why do I still see photos daily of firefighters working after a fire for (e.g., stowing equipment or repacking hose) while still wearing elements of their structural firefighting protective ensemble, PPE? I’m speaking of firefighters wearing their bunker pants, boots, many times with their protective hood still around their neck.
I understand that some of the firefighters we see in such photos may not have been in the hazard area and weren’t exposed to chemicals, chemical compounds, and carcinogens from working in the hazard area and being exposed to smoke.
But all firefighters need to adopt the new paradigm for wearing their firefighter PPE: When the emergency is over you get out of your PPE.
There should be no misunderstanding about this. If you’ve worked in the hazard area and gone through initial contaminant reduction (gross decontamination) that should mean that you’ve properly doffed you PPE and SCBA and moved to the firefighter rehab area; at a minimum you need to have moved to the cold zone of the incident.
You don’t shed your SCBA and coat and go about your business; your entire ensemble has been exposed and wearing any of it is continuing to expose you to unnecessary risk.