“Omnis Cedo Domus”
Everyone Goes Home (widely known as 'The Fire Fighter’s Credo')
From June 17 – 23, the Willow Grove Volunteer Fire Company (WGVFC) joined fellow firefighters around the world in recognition of International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week.
According to the event’s website (safetyandhealthweek.org), the week is a joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council. It is an event that focuses on safety, health training and education for all emergency responders.
This year’s theme, “Rules You Can Live By,” focused on the rules of engagement for firefighting, as well as firefighting safety, survival and health.
“The goal of all fire chiefs and officers is to ensure the firefighters operate safely at all emergency scenes,” Upper Moreland Fire Marshal Robert Drennen said in a correspondence. “Firefighters train and prepare to save lives and protect property, but during this week, the national initiative is focusing on firefighters' safety practices.”
Training with the WGVFC
According to WGVFC assistant chief Brian Focht, members of the company train nearly every Thursday of the month.
He said that training includes a mixture of lectures, drills and interactive demonstrations.
“We train the way we respond,” Focht, a 25-year WGVFC member said.
He explained training for the Willow Grove area may include search and rescue, vehicle extractions or water rescue drills. He added that specific training goes into emergency situations concerning tractor-trailers.
“We have more tractor-trailers coming through the township than most others,” Focht said, referencing the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
However, in light of the Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, the WGVFC postponed its June 21 ladder-use training, in lieu of discussing firefighter safety.
During an early portion of Focht’s lecture, he showed a slide that listed attributes of a firefighter:
“Tradition is good, but tradition also kills firefighters,” Focht told the WGVFC members.
He explained that firefighters must keep up with firefighting best practices to maintain their safety during calls. He cited seatbelt usage while riding in fire trucks as one such best practice.
“In the excitement of heading to a call, the sirens flashing, heading in high speeds toward a burning building, even being trained to always wear a seatbelt is important to a firefighter’s safety,” Tom Winterberg, WGVFC lieutenant, said. “If we don’t get to the scene safely, it takes away from our ability to help the public.”
Later in Focht’s safety lecture, he showed a video produced by a Maryland fire chief. The video contained clips of dangerous situations for firefighters. One segment particularly focused on devastating fire truck and motorist collisions that sometimes occur at traffic intersections.
Other segments focused on having situational awareness at emergency scenes, such as checking to see if a ladder is still in use, or determining the sturdiness of certain burning structures before approaching them.
Focht also emphasized the importance of familiarity with firefighter equipment and technology. He said its important for a firefighter to double check the readiness of equipment used prior, during and after a call.
The WGVFC has acquired a brand-new piece of technology, called the Masimo Rad-57. This hand-held device essentially measures how much carbon monoxide (CO) is found in the body. Focht said that the CO monitor will help firefighter’s gauge the health of victims at emergency scenes, such as those exposed to a CO gas leak at Wintersport last year.
According to Focht, CO exposure is tasteless, colorless and odorless. It is found in smoke from fires or gas leaks, and is lethal with prolonged exposure. It is most dangerous to babies stilll in utero.
The Rad-57 will likely also be used during a firefighter’s rehab period.
“Rehab is a time when we want to start counteracting the effects of stress and heat, so you can have a longer duration of fighting the fire.” Tom Smith, WGVFC safety officer said.
Taking this portion of the safety lecture, Smith explained that Rehab for firefighters at a scene has become a state-standard practice. He said, in the past, firefighters were reluctant to undergo rehab, thinking they don’t need it. But, Smith said it’s vital for firefighters to think of constant rehydration and rest.
At scenes, especially on particularly hot days, WGVFC members will supply firefighters with both water and electrolyte drinks. Other measures of cooling down a firefighter’s core temperature include, wet towels around the neck, mister sprays, and a forearm-cooling chair.
According to Smith, and echoed by several other more veteran members of the WGVFC, sudden cardiac arrest, due to stress of the environment, is one of the leading causes of death among firefighters. The other would be exposure to cyanide, found in smoke.
“It was helpful to drive the point home with a presentation like this,” Jason Mirandi, a four-year WGVFC member, said. “We’re always pursuing safety.
The George Crotts Jr. Member of the Year Award
WGVFC chief Lee Perlmutter also addressed company members during the special training.
Perlmutter sadly recalled the late WGVFC member George Crotts, who served 52 years with the company. He reminded those present that Crotts succumbed to injuries after attending to the company’s antique vehicle, “Old Bertha.” Perlmutter said that Crotts’ passing was the first and only line of duty death to occur within his 40-year tenure, and within the 105-year history of the WGVFC.
“I don’t ever want to go through with what happened to George,” Perlmutter said. “If you do something to hurt yourself, I have to talk with your family. And, you never, ever want to have that conversation.”
The WGVFC has since named an annual award in honor of Crotts. The George Crotts Jr. Member of the Year Award is given in recognition of a member who has excelled in both administration and operation in the company.
Perlmutter then repeated the firefighter’s credo, making it stick with each WGVFC member present: “Everyone Goes Home.”
“Firefighting is a brotherhood,” Perlmutter said, after the safety training. “If someone gets hurt, we’re hurt. If someone loses a family member, we lose them. If someone has a problem, we will help out.”
For more information, visit the Willow Grove Fire Company’s new website at www.tiller10.com.