2021 Safety Stand-Down for Firefighters and First Responders
The Safety Stand-Down will focus on firefighter rehab activities. Taking place on June 20th through the 26th, the Safety Stand-Down highlights the physical and psychological needs of firefighters and first responders. The campaign is called “Rebuild Rehab.” The Safety Stand-Down is sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These organizations will be providing resources and information throughout the month to help departments prioritize the mental and physical health of their members.
Firefighter Rehab – Why is it Important?
The fireground is an extremely dynamic environment, Extreme conditions make creating a rehab sector crucial to the health and safety of firefighters. Approximately one-half of all firefighter fatalities and a significant percentage of injuries and illnesses are caused by stress and overexertion during emergency scene operations and training exercises. Rehab operations at an incident can help mitigate the physical stress of firefighting. Rotating members through rehab, monitoring blood pressure, rehydrating, and providing rest breaks can help to sustain a firefighter’s energy, improve performance, and decrease the likelihood of on-scene injury or death.
However, firefighter rehab activities shouldn’t just be part of an incident scene and cease once it’s over. Rehab should be a continuous activity throughout each rescuer’s day. Firefighters, like an athlete, should continually focus on their health and fitness. They should keep hydrated, be rested, and be mindful of job-related stresses. Firefighters that maintain a high level of physical fitness will be able to sustain a consistent level of performance, suffer fewer injuries, and recover faster.
Safety Stand-Down Focuses on Rehab for Mental Health Too
The 2021 Safety Stand-Down focuses on rehab for the mental health of firefighters too. Not only are the hazards of rescue operations physical, but they can also seriously affect the psychological well-being of the responder. In fact, according to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, firefighters are three times more likely to die by suicide than in a “line of duty” death. They are also ten times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than those in other occupations.
No longer is it expected that rescuers should “get over it” after experiencing traumatic and emotional events. The repeated exposure to trauma, lack of sleep, job stress, long hours, and lack of resources come with a heavy burden on a first responder’s psychological well-being. The access to and utilization of mental health resources is just as important as supporting a first responder’s physiological needs.
NFPA Standards Suggest Best Practices for Firefighter Rehab
Several NFPA standards provide best practices for occupational safety, health, fitness, as well as rehab at training exercises and emergency operations. These include NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, NFPA 1583, Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Member and, NFPA 1584, Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises. Fire departments should use these standards and build on them to develop their own SOG’s. Following your Rehab SOGS will help to mitigate the physical, psychological, and emotional stress that rescuers experience on scene.
Test Your Knowledge With the Safety Stand-Down Test
During the “Safety Stand-Down” week and to call attention to the need for both physical and psychological rehab, the NFPA is hosting a “Fire Service Safety Stand Down Quiz.” Anyone who completes the online quiz is automatically entered into a sweepstake; 200 randomly selected participants will win a commemorative Safety Stand Down challenge coin. For more information on the Safety Stand-Down.
For more information or training on incident rehab, incident management, safety officer roles and responsibilities, Fire Officer 1, and firefighter safety, Action Training Systems, Inc. has several training series on these topics that can be used for initial and continuing education. Our Training Consultants are always happy to assist you.