It’s no secret that firefighters often feel like they have two families; one bound by blood the other by department. For some, balancing the dual – and occasionally conflicting – obligations can be complicated.
Lori Mercer fully understands these complexities. She and her four children are enormously proud of the career her firefighter husband, Dan, has pursued. Mercer is inspired by his unselfish commitment and service to the community. She admires his strength and compassion. But she has struggled with the ongoing challenges of unpredictable schedules, physical and emotional demands, and the inherent dangers of the job.
“I felt very alone as a firefighter’s wife. So few of my friends had the predictably unpredictable schedule I was trying to keep and couldn’t relate to my frustrations and worries,” she said. “It’s very hard to be so proud of your spouse and yet so exasperated in the same moment.”
Lori and Dan launched FirefighterWife.com in 2012 as a blog to share how she navigates life as a family with a firefighter. She soon started hearing from other wives, husbands and loved ones of firefighters who shared similar stories. It was clear to her that the divorce rate and the challenges of marriage and firefighting were impacting families. It also was taking its toll on the performance of firefighters on the job.
But within the emails and posts she found a common thread. “Overall, everyone wanted to be more positive and supportive of their firefighters and their families,” she explained.
To help encourage this connection, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Everyone Goes Home® program is collaborating with Mercer and their new site, 247commitment.org, to share resources that can benefit both audiences. The blueprint for firefighter safety, the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives (FLSI), focus on personal accountability, wellness, fitness and advocacy for safety. A firefighter’s family plays an important support role in all of this.
“Families can help influence the attitudes and behaviors of their firefighters, especially when it comes to being safe,” explained Chief Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF. “Ultimately, the loved ones and the Foundation want everyone to go home every day to their most important role as spouses, parents, siblings, children and friends. We’re confident this partnership will help us reach more people with this invaluable message.”
As part of the partnership, the Foundation will present information about the Life Safety Initiatives and the resources available to families and departments at the third annual Flame Fest. The weekend getaway for firefighter couples at Resort at Glade Springs West Virginia, June 4-7, 2015, offers workshops and fun activities.
“We want everyone attending Flame Fest to know more about what they can do to encourage their spouse or partner to accept personal accountability for their safety,” said Mercer. “We also want them to be realistic. Firefighting is a serious and dangerous job. It’s important to always hope for the very best but to be prepared for the worst. Not just for your own family but also for your greater fire service family.”
For more information about Flame Fest, go to 247commitment.org. To learn more about the 16 Life Safety Initiatives and all the programs offered through Everyone Goes Home®, visit www.everyonegoeshome.com.