Improving the Health & Safety of all Emergency Responders

Billy D. Hayes is the Fire Chief for the City of Onalaska Fire Department in Wisconsin and the
FDSOA SafetyGram Editor

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on the successes of the year, and the challenges that still lie ahead, and this year, it is no different. However, I once again see it from a new perspective, as I began serving as the new Fire Chief of the Onalaska, WI Fire Department in August 2018. Thus, I’ve gone from talking about safety to once again addressing and intervening for the sake of the men and women who serve our great department.

With that, I began this year with the honor of serving as the SafetyGram Editor for the Fire Department Safety Officers Association. I appreciate the Board of Directors and the great staff for asking me to lead the effort in revitalizing this benefit to the membership of the FDSOA. I have asked a wide of array of noted fire service professionals, some who have vast experience in writing and those who are just beginning, to submit ideas and columns on emerging and/or popular issues and challenges the American fire service is facing.

We began the year with Chief Ron Dennis reflecting to the Tampa 1 Summit, and then visited Tampa 2, and highlighting the successes we have been experienced since. In summary, we’ve come a long way with more to go. In March, we highlighted a submission by Joe Jones & Deena Kilpatrick to discuss a different perspective on firefighter health and wellness. We learned how the San Antonio Fire Department was using sports medicine for physical training and injury rehabilitation to reduce loss of work time with successful return rates and a reduction of reoccurrences.

In April, Don Cox from VFIS quizzed and informed us about vehicle driver qualification programs and why they are important to organizations. Chief I. David Daniels brought to light the impact of bullying in the firehouse during a two-part series in May and June, while in July, Captain Joe Hempel reminded of us that health and wellness should include healthy eating habits.

August brought us our old friend Chief Steve Prziborowski who outlined the importance of safety officer development within the organization. September brought us Chief Anthony La Manna who clearly defined how personal protective equipment is a critical fire ground tool and how we must use the right tool for the job for health and safety despite whether you are in a career or volunteer department.

Like most things in October, we discussed with Captain Chris Simpson the importance of community risk reduction and the safety officer’s role in serving as an advocate. Last month, Chief Reginald Freeman reminded us of the ever looming and continuous issue of behavioral health and the importance of recognition and intervention.

As you can see, it has been a very diverse year in bringing back the SafetyGram. If you haven’t read them all, please take the time to do so and provide me your feedback. I began in late 2017 asking what topics that were not being discussed, or not being discussed enough. The response was impressive and continues.  I want to thank each of the contributing authors who submitted their ideas and took the time to help make this comeback happen. However, there is a long way to go. We are still looking for new topics, and/or a new perspective on current issues. More importantly, we are looking for submissions from our membership.

This past year, we lost my friend David Dow in Maine who was with the Bangor Fire Department, who lost his battle with cancer. I met David at the National Fire Academy many years ago. I bring this up because David said something one night in the Command Post Pub during a conversation about unions and departments. I use his quote in most of my presentations to this day. “It’s your Union, pay your dues, get involved!”

This is your FDSOA, you’ve paid your dues, we look forward to your involvement.

Merry Christmas and I look forward to having a prosperous 2019 with you.

Billy