Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Journal Entry 11-“It’s LODD Half Time-But We Can’t Rewind the Tape”
Chief Ronald E. Kanterman

My good friend, retired Chief Charlie Dickinson said on the Everyone Goes Home DVD program, “this ain’t football folks, we can’t rewind the tape and start over again.” Boy is he ever right. In case you haven’t been paying attention to our LODD issue, here’s some information that hopefully you can use at your next company meeting, shift meeting, business meeting, union meeting or chief’s meeting. We’re heading for a bad year. Although the end of June is actually when half the year is over, I took a look at the stats as of July 31 as posted on the USFA’s Firefighter Fatality web page.

Types of LODD:
Heart Attack/Stroke/Cancer/Illness: 34
Trauma: collapse/trapped/burns: 15
Driving/crashes: 4
Total: 53

Firefighter Classification:
Career/part time paid 23
Volunteer 30

Ages of LODD’s:
Career: 3-20’s; 4-30’s; 5-40’s; 9-50’s; 2-60’s
Volunteer: 1-18 yrs old; 3-20’s; 3-30’s; 9-40’s; 11-50’s; 1-60; 2-80’s

If we simply double these numbers, we’re looking at 106. It’s time to re-affirm our commitment to safety. It’s time to re-evaluate our health, wellness and fitness. It’s time to step back and look at strategy tactics, command operations, building construction, and on and on……………again. The fire service at large has got to be tired of hearing all of this stuff day after day and year after year but we are doomed because we’re repeating history. Career guys with known ailments are still not taking themselves off the line to get their health issues corrected and we’re still allowing volunteers in their 70’s and 80’s to respond to calls. If you want to stop reading now I understand, but go outside and stick your heads in the sand like the American fire service has done for the past 275 years.

I met a career firefighter a few years back in his mid 30’s. He looked like an athlete on the outside. He went to the gym, ran, worked out etc. What he didn’t know was that he had a mechanical malfunction on the inside, due to an unhealthy diet. He found this out when he went for a voluntary medical exam and was told he needed cardiac by-pass surgery. No one believed it especially him. He went back to full duty 6 months after surgery and is still on the job.

There comes a time when members of the volunteer fire service need to turn in their pagers and stop responding. Going to fires and emergencies is work for young people. Firefighting is stressful hard work, mentally and physically. Senior members know this because they’ve done it for a long time. When your pager goes off at 0300, no matter what your age, 21 or 71, your heart starts to beat rapidly and your respirations go up. Studies have been done (M. Asken, PhD) that show there is an automatic bio-physical response to being woken out of a dead sleep knowing there is a pending emergency. (It happens to the career guys too when the alarm lights go on and the dispatcher’s voice shakes them out of their bunks.) It’s an involuntary reaction and you can’t stop it. When you reach “that age” and most discussions around the country take it at 62-65 where most career guys would retire, it’s time to turn your pager in. “But no one is around during the day and I can still drive.” So what you’re saying is at 75 you still believe you can jockey a 25 ton machine safely through town at a high rate of speed? And then, what will you do when you get there if no one is around during the day? Enjoy the 20, 30 or 40 years you put in to the company and the service you provided to your community. You paid your dues probably more than once. Stay with the fire company to teach, share, pass on the knowledge you have, support the new officers, greet the new members, tell your stories and embrace your company’s history. Work on committees, follow legislation, offer history lessons around code changes or fire department SOP’s. Do all of that. Continue to contribute. You don’t have to drive or respond to contribute to the fire company and remain an active member. Oh yeah I almost forgot, enjoy your family, grand children and your friends too. I know many senior members of fire companies all over the country and they have remained active without responding and enjoying life.

You needn’t listen to me. I’m just a guy who’s been around for a few minutes and have been active with National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for many years. Those of us who are, remain close to the LODD issue. Oh yeah, we’ve been too many LODD funerals too.

At the end of June, my good friend Billy Goldfeder and I hosted our first on-line radio program through Fire Engineering Talk Radio. If you haven’t tuned in yet, there is a show every night, Monday-Friday with different subjects and a myriad of speakers. You are guaranteed to find someone you like. Billy and I took the platform of “safety, survival and other things.” The first show brought us Bob Colameta, a Battalion Chief from Massachusetts on the air as our guest. Bob is one of the driving forces behind the Everyone Goes Home program and he said it best about firefighter safety and LODD prevention. He went on the say; “All the tools, programs and documents are in place. There is a ton of training material and it’s all free. There are instructors, program advocates and a constant nationwide push. It’s up to the individual to get on board and decide they will work safer, get healthier and when they can’t do it anymore, they won’t.” Billy and I agreed with him.

This month’s journal entry is not a bash on unhealthy career guys or senior volunteers. It’s an appeal to all of you to look inside yourselves for answers and to know when to say when. We have to shrink our LODD numbers and in turn, shrink the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. But it’s not about numbers. It’s about real people, good people, like you. Start now because we need all of you to stick around a while longer.

Take care, stay well, stay safe,
Ronnie K