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Another Letter from the Chief for Safety, Health and Survival Week

From: Isaac Abraham Fudpucker, Chief
Metropolitan Fire Department

To: All department members

Re: 2009 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week

Dear Men,

Once again, we find ourselves observing Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week, and I am proud to say that the S.H.I.T. we pulled last year has really paid big dividends! Workplace injuries are at an all-time low, and our poster presentation at the Fire Rescue International conference last August was well-received. In fact, a number of the judges complimented us on the fact that, unlike many other entrants, our S.H.I.T. didn’t stink.

All of us need to remember that safety is not just something we observe one week a year. It takes constant vigilance to promote a safety culture here at Metropolitan Fire Department, and with that in mind, and as successful as last year's program was, we can't just keep doing the same S.H.I.T. year after year.

So with that in mind, I'd like to address a few new safety issues that have cropped up since last year:

1. The use of "Probie Canaries" is to be limited to investigation of suspicious smells in firehouse bathrooms and refrigerators only. On all real calls, everyone — probies included — is expected to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment. We've lost half of this year's recruit class already, and it's only June.

2. It seems that some of you haven't learned from last year's unfortunate intersection accident between Rescue Four and Ladder Seven. It has come to my attention that someone in the department is spreading misinformation about our departmental policies in regard to intersection right-of-way.

For the last time, there is no "lug nut rule" that grants the right-of-way to the vehicle with the highest number of lug nuts. If that were the case, I'd have the right-of-way at every intersection, because I run a fire department staffed entirely with lug nuts.

3. Horseplay in the firehouses is expressly forbidden. I know that a practical joke here and there lightens tension, and I'll admit to Saran-wrapping a few toilet bowls back in my day, but this has gotten out of hand.

And to the joker who rubbed all the bedding down in the headquarters bunkroom with fiberglass insulation, I will find out who you are. Count on it.

4. Speaking of jokers — to whoever posted that fake NFPA bulletin on the board at Station Four — good one! You even had me going, right up to the part about new NFPA standards discouraging unsafe practices like running into burning buildings. Everybody knows that something that stupid could only come from OSHA!

5. The departmental wellness program is paying big dividends in reducing lost time injuries and sick days, but some of you have gone a bit overboard in your efforts to win the Weight Loss Challenge.

I strongly discourage the use of stimulants, even the legal ones, as diet aids. Half of you are bouncing around here like a bunch of sugared up six-year-olds at a pajama party.

On the bright side, the stations have never been cleaner, and the crew at Station Seven managed to check every hydrant in the city in less than an hour!

6. As I'm sure you're all aware, the recession has resulted in a sharp decline in tax revenue, and the city council has passed a resolution requiring all departments to slash their budgets by 10 percent. I foresee no layoffs in the immediate future, but we will have to tighten our belts.

Accordingly, the purchase of new CO oximeters and thermal imaging cameras has been put off until next year. Until such time as we can purchase these items, we'll just have to continue using the "copological" indicators like we always have; if the stripe on the cop's uniform pants is vertical, it’s safe to enter. If it's horizontal, don your SCBA before you go in.

7. I'd rather not forbid pick-up basketball games during our down time, but you'll force me to it if you don't start using some common sense. I know that "no blood, no foul" is a long-standing tradition in half-court basketball, and that none of you want to be seen as wimps for calling a foul.

I also know that Lieutenant Finley shouldn't need the services of a maxillofacial surgeon every time he tries to set a pick.

8. From now on, all nozzlemen manning large diameter attack lines must weigh at least 130 pounds, and backup men must make sure someone else is ready to take their place before letting go of the line. This applies to training exercises as well, people. And no, remembering that you forgot to TiVo "Rescue Me" is not a valid excuse for abandoning your position on the attack line. At last month's exercise, I could have sworn I was watching that fire hose rodeo from “Jackass.”

9. We're well into the wildfire season now, so all you wildland crews make sure your equipment is in good shape. And by the way — to the joker that wrote “Jiffy Pop!” on all our wildland fire shelters — not cool.

10. I never thought I'd have to point this out, but our policy forbidding cell phone use while driving also applies to all fireground operations. I don't care how big and exciting the fire is, or how many people subscribe to your Twitter feed, you should at least wait until decontamination and cleanup to haul out your Blackberry.

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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