Fire/emergency medical services

‘Unnecessary and avoidable risks’ part of firefighter safety culture, report states

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Photo: JohnnyH5/iStock/Thinkstock

Emmitsburg, MD – The number of on-duty firefighter deaths and injuries has changed little over the past 40 years, prompted by a culture in which firefighters believe they are expected to sacrifice their own safety to save others, according to a new report from the U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

The report, released April 8, details the National Safety Culture Change Initiative, which aims to change the cultural norms that lead firefighters to “engage in actions that involve unnecessary and avoidable risks, which often places their own lives, and potentially the lives of their fellow firefighters, in danger when there are less dangerous options available.” It focuses on the following areas:

  • Environmental factors
  • Health and wellness
  • Individual responsibility
  • Leadership
  • Recruiting
  • Safety belt usage
  • Situational awareness
  • Training
  • Operation of emergency and personal vehicles

The report notes that the lack of progress on reducing firefighter deaths and injuries comes despite a focus on health, greater access to training, advancements in personal protective equipment and a decline in fires. “Some type of cultural change is needed to alter the perceptions of acceptable and unacceptable risks,” the report states.