Could I Have Done More?

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

My heart is heavy today, which given the fact that it is Valentine’s Day, seems slightly off-balance.  It is heavy because in the last week (actually less) Virginia has lost two responders in Line of Duty Deaths and just today my husband told me about the loss of fellow county Volunteer. While his death was not line of duty, it still was a fellow first responder, someone who I spent many calls with and have many memories about.

It’s hard not to hear these bits of news and not take it personally. You play the “What If It Had Been Me?” or the “I wonder if I know them” cards. You consider how you would respond if it were in your own agency and what you would do if it were your crew, etc. We mourn for the losses of our brothers and at the same time breathe a small and short-lived sigh of relief that it wasn’t us.  And honestly, I think that’s okay.  What’s more important though is that while we celebrate the people who aren’t with us anymore, we take the opportunity to try to prevent it from happening again.  We can NEVER forget the things that the L.O.D.D.s have taught us.  The reports are simple: we don’t wear our seatbelts, we are out of shape, we have a significantly higher rate of suicide than many other professions. Just last year a report was issued focusing on suicides in the fire service (http://lifesafetyinitiatives.com/13/depressionsuicide_summary.pdf).

What do we need to do to make sure we don’t ask ourselves “Could I have done more?” 

1.  Education! Read the trade magazines, the studies, the NIOSH and OSHA reports, the websites.  Hell, you should be reading things about this service every day (or at least every shift). These are people who have learned the hard way and want to make sure that you don’t have to make the same mistake. 

2.  Train!   Once you’ve educated yourself, apply the knowledge through training.  Training is more than reading.  Training is the hands-on application of the skills or lessons you learned from the reading.  Train to recognize when a scene is going to crap and your safety is being compromised.  Train to recognize unsafe fire conditions/unsafe medical patients/unsafe scenes and learn how to handle the situations without becoming a part of the incident.

3.  Man/Woman Up – This might seem like a harsh statement, but TOO many times I’ve watched people go towards that dark corner that we could all potentially end up in after too many bad calls, too many bad days, etc. They get to that breaking point long after they should have stood up and said “Hey, I need help and I can’t do it alone”. Whether you use your agency Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) system, or even just reach out to a coworker, mentor, loved one, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is the recognition, that if you don’t reach out…the opportunity may not come around for your to reach out again!

4.  Recognize Others Problems – We train for responding to the aftermath on a daily basis.  AFTER the car crash, I will hold C-Spine. AFTER the delivery I will suction the airway. AFTER the fire starts, I will put it out.  AFTER I begin to have issues dealing with the hard stuff, I will seek out help.  Why aren’t we training for the BEFORE.  Train for resiliency (the ability to deal with what we could potentially face on a daily basis). Train to recognize the signs and symptoms of someone else struggling. Train to get help before it’s too late!

5. Follow simple safety precautions. Put your seat belt on, wear your safety best, wear the appropriate equipment….the list goes on.  I could sit here and list way too many safety issues that we neglect to follow on a daily basis and I am one that has this struggle. In the back of the ambulance, i don’t wear my seatbelt. I should, but it’s not habit. I need to make it habit! Make those safety expectations habit, so in the heat of the moment, you don’t forget.

Here are some great sites for additional information: http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/, www.icisf.org, www.nvfc.org.

I know that even following these and other safety recommendations, we will still be left asking ourselves “Could I have done more”?  It’s in our nature. But do your best to not walk away from a situation saying “I didn’t do anything”.

Until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn)

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