Thursday Morning - How Are You Feeling?
Updated, 10 am:
NIOSH report now available online. Scroll down.
Perhaps you recall the tragic day last July when two Bridgeport, Connecticut, firefighters perished in an afternoon house fire. Firegeezer reported the STORY HERE at the time it happened. Yesterday (Wednesday) the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released the preliminary report on their investigation into the two LODD's. The Connecticut Post sums it up in the first paragraph of their article about it:
Bridgeport fire officials' failure on nearly every level led to the deaths of two firefighters battling a West Side blaze last July, a federal report has concluded.
That's pretty damning and right to the point. "Fire officials," "…every level," "…failure," "…led to the deaths." The Post then goes on to list the findings that were included in the report:
The 60-page report goes on, but no need to belabor it here. It is no surprise that an earlier state OSHA report cited a critical lack of proper training of the firefighters on SCBA usage and the failure to inspect the air supply equipment correctly. The NIOSH report has not been published yet, but has been released to the City and the fire department for review while the agency completes its review of its findings and recommendations. However, the Connecticut Post was also permitted to see the preliminary report and they published the information that we have just passed along in an article yesterday that you can read online HERE.
Included in NIOSH's long list of recommendations are several that address the issue of firefighter health and physical conditioning. The autopsy of one of them disclosed that he suffered from coronary artery disease. Again, from The Post:
In February, Rooney said the department plans to adopt the more widely used state Candidate Physical Ability Test, instead of its own test, to evaluate incoming candidates. Rooney said the department is working with the firefighters union to set up annual stress tests for new hires. He said he would like to see a physical ability test required for new hires and monetary incentives for those who meet fitness goals.
For me, this opens up more questions. Why has the department never had any stress tests for its firefighters after all these years of reports and advances about firefighter health and heart disease? And, why are they only setting up annual tests for new hires? Why not test the people who are on the job?
Also, the part that leaves me really befuddled: "….monetary incentives for those who meet fitness goals." Isn't that the same mindset that has been draining the treasuries of cities and states everywhere? How about this for an incentive: Keeping your job. Or, remaining eligible for promotion? Many fire/rescue and EMS agencies have minimal physical ability, agility, and health standards that they maintain as a "condition of employment." That has been amply demonstrated as an effective method to both reduce on-the-job injuries and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of fireground operations.
Now I realize that when a department has persistently ignored those areas, they will have several firefighters who are good, dedicated, and skilled employees that have slipped outside the preferred limits. There are both legal and compassionate reasons to take that into consideration when implementing a physical standard for a department. But whatever route is taken, it has to be done. I wonder how many other departments will learn from this report and start corrective programs before they lose their own firefighters to a terrible incident? Judging from the past, I'm not confident.
Now let's make sure our own health and efficiency is being taken care of and get this equipment checked out. I'll go get some good, healthy coffee started.
Update, 10 am:
The NIOSH report is now available online. FirefighterNation has more on this along with a link to the .pdf report HERE.
* * * * * * *