The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has rolled out a totally revamped website to support seatbelt usage among firefighters. “The look and feel of this new website, plus its increased ease of use will improve this already effective program,” says the Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has managed the seatbelt pledge program since 2011.
Why this emphasis on improving a program that is already working? “Because firefighters continue to die needlessly in vehicle crashes,” notes Chief Victor Stagnaro, Director of Fire Service Programs for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. He continues “we are always shocked and disheartened when we are informed that a firefighter has been killed by being ejected from their rigs, when we know this could have been avoided if they had just taken a few seconds to fasten their seatbelts.
“And what’s even more shocking,” Stagnaro notes, “is when we realize that these same individuals buckle up in their own cars as they go about driving themselves and their families.”
Chief Stagnaro is right. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the use of seatbelts by Americans approaches 88%–and the “buckle up” campaigns are some of the most successful public health efforts in modern history. The fire service has typically lagged behind in achieving this compliance record.
But there is good news. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), vehicle crashes to and from the incident scene are declining. Unless 2014 is an outlier year, fewer of these fatalities will occur in the future.
Certainly, we can contribute this trend to department, local and state laws mandating seatbelt usage in fire/EMS apparatus. Certainly, millennials (who are now populating fire departments in greater and greater numbers) have never been part of a culture where seatbelts are optional. And certainly, we have to consider the impact of the International First Responder Seatbelt Pledge.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation believes in the International First Responder Seatbelt Pledge to such a degree that it set aside precious grant funding from its 2014 Fire Act Grant award to fully automate the online experience and its functionality.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation urges every firefighter to enroll and take the seatbelt pledge. If you love a firefighter, this is a topic worth nagging them about! It’s a pretty easy fix to avoid a tragic and needless fire service fatality.