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A Letter From the Chief for Safety, Health and Survival Week...

From: Isaac Abraham Fudpucker, Chief

Metropolitan Fire Department

To: All department members

Re: 2008 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week

Dear Members,
Many of you know that today marks the beginning of Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week, and I know that all of you will do your part to assure that we promote a safety culture here at MFD.

Over the years, past safety initiatives have resulted in a steady decline of firefighter injuries at this department, and I expect us all to strive to keep up the trend. With the exception of Firefighter Jones and the electrical safety demonstration last week at Metropolitan Middle School, we have gone for two weeks now without a significant on-the-job injury. On a related note, let’s all wish Firefighter Jones a speedy recovery, and try to remember that demonstrating the effectiveness of ground fault adaptors to schoolchildren should not include actually sticking a fork in an electrical socket.

With that in mind, Metropolitan Fire Department will implement a new program called Safety and Health Initiative Training (S.H.I.T), effective immediately. All department members are expected to take S.H.I.T at their earliest opportunity, with the goal of having all department members S.H.I.T-certified by the end of July. As soon as we get our S.H.I.T together, I plan to make a poster presentation at the Fire Rescue International conference in Denver in August.

Taking S.H.I.T will involve:

1. Full compliance with NFPA 1500, including PPE. That means all department members will be fit-tested with HEPA respirators. It also means that when you are helping the medics on a medical call, and all the EMS types are wearing masks, it behooves you to do the same, not just stand around holding it in your hand. That goes for gloves, too, people.

2. A zero tolerance policy regarding wearing appropriate protective gear at Hazmat scenes. No one is allowed inside the hot zone without the appropriate gear. Anyone entering a hot zone without the appropriate level Hazmat suit will be subject to departmental discipline. Never again do I want to see a picture like the one that appeared in the paper last week:

Hopefully, District Chief Fitzhugh will recover fully, although he has graciously offered to volunteer for our Halloween Haunted Firehouse, if he is still glowing in October.

3. All firehouse refrigerators will be cleaned weekly, and all food brought in must be labeled with the owner’s name and the date. Last week I was raiding the fridge at Station Four, and helped myself to some of Captain Smith’s cottage cheese, only to discover that it started out as the half-and-half those guys bought for their coffee. Therefore, any food older than one week or anything that is moving under its own power will be thrown out. Refrigerator cleaning may be assigned to the junior man at the station, or any probies we may have. When cleaning refrigerators, please refer to the S.H.I.T details in Directive #2.

4. Departmental wellness policy shall be to actively discourage the practice of lighting up a cigarette during fireground cleanup and decontamination. And no, the opportunity to “suck a little clean smoke” is not a valid excuse.

5. All maintenance and cleaning schedules for equipment and personal protective gear shall be stringently observed. NO EXCEPTIONS! And by the way, to the joker that stuck those fake bullet hole decals on the face shields of the Level Three Hazmat suits — not cool.

6. All department medics shall be required to use the shielded IV catheters and sharps containers supplied on the rigs. If your sharps container is full, see the supply officer for a new one. Anyone caught poking their exposed IV needles into the stretcher mattress or bench seat shall be subject to departmental discipline. I know it’s a common practice, but last month Medic Six transported a local alderman having chest pain, and when he got off the stretcher, it looked like he had the measles.

7. Full implementation of the wellness and fitness initiative. Currently, we are looking at requiring yearly completion of the physical conditioning test for all department members, not just as a pre-hire qualification. I know it may come as a surprise to some of you older members that the weight machine and treadmills we supplied for each station can be used for something other than a convenient place to hang your laundry, but in the interest of setting a good example, all of the chiefs on the command staff will be leading the wellness charge. I personally will be the first to re-take the physical conditioning test in September right alongside the new-hire candidates, provided I am sufficiently recovered from my gastric bypass surgery by then.

8. We will be implementing a comprehensive emergency vehicle driving policy within the next few months. The city lawyer and the risk managers have informed me that our traditional "biggest vehicle at the intersection has the right-of-way" policy is outdated and insufficient.

I know, it comes as a surprise to me, too. On a related note, let's all wish a speedy recovery to the crew of Rescue Four, who unfortunately suffered a negative vehicle-to-vehicle interface with Ladder Seven on the way to the warehouse fire last month. The accident investigators assured me that Rescue Four had the right-of-way at the intersection, and will not be ruled at fault. Also, Callahan's recent promotion to district chief leaves an opening for driver on Ladder Seven. If anyone is interested, see Captain Frazier at Station Seven.

9. Seat belt use during all responses will be strictly enforced for all vehicle occupants. That also goes for you guys that like to practice your own version of "car surfing" on the hose beds of department apparatus. This practice needs to stop immediately, and I don't care if FDNY has done it for years. If everyone at FDNY jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?

10. Lastly, the practice of working on boats, cars, ATVs and such while on duty is indefinitely suspended. I personally have no problems with you doing a little personal vehicle maintenance at the stations, provided you do it during the down time between equipment and apparatus maintenance and station duties. Heck, I restored my 1964 Barracuda right there in the engine bay at Station Six.

But, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch that abuse the privilege and spoil things for the rest of us. Building your own firefighting robot, while an admirable goal, is still an inappropriate use of departmental equipment and resources. Robots lack the judgment and decision-making capability of a flesh and blood, human firefighter. Like understanding that a water cannon is overkill for putting out a lit cigarette in a no-smoking area, for example.

On a related note, let's all wish a speedy recovery for Lieutenant Finkbeiner. Let's all hope that his facial injuries will fully heal, and that swollen and deformed lips will help kick-start his smoking-cessation efforts.

Remember, the success of our S.H.I.T will require the effort and dedication of all our members, so strive to get your S.H.I.T together, and Think Safety!

The Chief

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