This declaration for firefighter safety is being spearheaded by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, through the “Everyone Goes Home” campaign.
Retired Fire Chief Steve Arnold is a Missouri Advocate for the “Everyone Goes Home Program” and a Fire Service Safety Instructor. “Apparatus and vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of firefighter line of duty deaths,” says Arnold. “Many of those deaths can be attributed to the lack of wearing seat belts by fire service personnel.”
This “First Responders Seat Belt Pledge” is the latest tool to raise awareness among firefighters everywhere about the importance of buckling up before they leave the station on an Emergency 911 call. Fire departments across the country are taking the pledge, but none in St. Louis County until now.
“The promotion of seat belt use is being woven into the fabric of our day-to-day logistics,” says Hazelwood Fire Department spokesperson, Randy Getz. “Our newest truck sounds an alarm in the cab when the parking brake is released and not all of the seat belts are buckled.”
But on older fire trucks without this technology, there is plenty of data to suggest that firefighters — like automotive drivers and passengers everywhere — are not fully on board with this safety practice.
Recent news headlines such as “Michigan Firefighter Ejected in Tanker Rollover,” “Texas Firefighter Ejected in Fire Truck Crash,” “Baltimore Firefighter Injured in Fall from Truck,” and “Hillsborough County, FL, Paramedic Killed, Not Wearing Seat Belt” give some validity to this claim.
“Firefighters are just a microcosm of seat belt use in general everywhere, by everyone,” says Getz. “The latest Missouri numbers tell us that 69 percent of all vehicle occupants killed in crashes over the past five years were not wearing seat belts. Of teenagers, ages 15 to 19, killed in crashes, 76 percent were not wearing seat belts. How can our society allow this kind of behavior to continue?”
The “Everyone Goes Home Program,” started by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, aims to reduce the number of fire service on-duty deaths by urging such safety protocols as seat belt usage. This not-profit organization was created by an act of Congress and is based in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
“We would like to issue a challenge of our own to the residents of Hazelwood,” says Getz. “Take your own pledge to wear seat belts. Change long-standing habits, if necessary. Make sure all of those riding in your vehicle are buckled up as well, and remind teen drivers to do the same. We feel that if we can take the pledge and commit to this safety practice, everyone else can too!”