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Thursday, January 5, 2012

SAFETY FIRST - Fire/EMS Training Academy Tactics Recognized

Safety First

By: Rasy Moqeet
Los Angeles County Fire Department

Every fire academy in the country teaches their recruits that safety comes first, but Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department (PGFD) has taken this concept one step further. In addition to the standard firefighting and emergency medical services training, PGFD has found an innovative approach to teach their recruits about the hidden dangers facing firefighters, including cancer. What began as a weekend homework assignment became something much more as a recent recruit class at PGFD set out to investigate the correlation between firefighters and cancer.

The concept is simple, each week the class attending PGFD’s Fire/EMS Training Academy is given weekly assignments that focus on varying health and safety issues, including nutrition, wellness, fitness, NIOSH reports, and of course cancer and its association with firefighters. According to PGFD Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, the recruit class has taken this assignment and turned it into a mission that was beneficial for all. He said, “These assignments are geared towards getting recruits to think why we are so adamant about safety. It refocused their training, for example now the recruits know that they want to make sure their face mask has a nice tight seal so that smoke cannot get in because not only can smoke have an immediate affect, but 20 years down the road it can lead to cancer and kill you.”

The Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) whose mission is to provide support to Fire Department members and their families when dealing with cancer, was excited to learn that PGFD has found a way to integrate this very important education into their recruit classes and hopes that other fire academies will follow PGFD’s lead. Numerous studies have shown that firefighters face a significantly higher chance of being diagnosed with cancer than the public they serve and education is a key factor to helping reduce that risk. One of FCSN’s primary goals is to educate firefighters about the importance of following safety procedures and ways to reduce their risks of contracting cancer. According to FCSN, “Absorption, ingestion, and inhalation are the three leading ways that firefighters are contracting cancer.” Simple steps such as wearing full personal protective equipment, including the self contained breathing apparatus, during and after a fire, as well as showering and cleaning dirty turnouts can all help firefighters lessen their risks to the dangerous cancer causing carcinogens.

Firefighters have an inherently dangerous job and they need to be diligent in their efforts to maintain proper safety protocol because it can save their lives not only in the field, also in the years to come. A recent PGFD Recruit School graduate, Fire Fighter Brian Goldfeder put it, “Some firefighter deaths are not preventable; sometimes we must take big risks to save human lives, however, the past traditions of not wearing SCBA and enjoying dark soot around our noses and mouths after fires, are traditions that belong in the past. We, as a new generation of firefighters, must learn from the past and help each to retire; to a healthy life with our friends and family.” To learn more about the Firefighter Cancer Support Network and the services they offer, please visit www.FirefighterCancerSupport.org

The author of this article can be contacted at:
Executive Bureau - Headquarters Support
RMoqeet@fire.lacounty.gov
http://fire.lacounty.gov/

Media Contact for PGFD is Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

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