Area firefighters participate in national stand down

How can Snoqualmie and Fall City firefighters drive their big rigs more safely? Do area paramedics remember all the precautions needed to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases?

Snoqualmie Fire Chief Bob Rowe and Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor want to make sure they know the answers to these questions so their departments are up to snuff.

Fall City and Snoqualmie fire departments are among a dozen King County Zone One fire departments that participated in the second annual Firefighter Safety Stand Down June 21.

The "day" was actually several, beginning on the 21st, so all shifts could get the training.

Between calls, the firefighters of the Snoqualmie, Fall City, Duvall, Bellevue, Bothell, Eastside Fire and Rescue, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Northshore, Redmond, Shore-line and Woodinville fire departments conducted training

exercises and reviewed safety-related operating procedures.

"It's a nationwide campaign," Rowe said. The number of firefighter deaths around the country has increased in recent years, he said.

Last year, 106 firefighters died in the line of duty in the United States; 26 of those happened in emergency vehicle-related crashes. Thousands more were injured while on duty.

The purpose of the stand down is to call attention to the high number of deaths and focus a full day of training to the issue of firefighter safety, Rowe said.

The specific focus this year is on emergency vehicle safety, in particular seatbelt use and safe driving through intersections.

"We've never had any hugely serious incidents here, but we see the national trends," Connor said.

While regular training includes safety instruction, the difference in the stand down is that it focuses on safety, Connor said.

In short, the most important thing emergency workers can do to improve safety is take the time to do a job safely, he said.

"It's the little stuff," Connor said, like putting on seatbelts before driving.

Citizens, too, can help improve firefighter safety by pulling over to the right and stopping for fire trucks and ambulances when lights or sirens are in use, and by using caution when driving by emergency sites.

Rowe said his department felt it was important to participate in the stand down. This year was the first time Snoqualmie has taken part in the program. Last year was the first-ever stand down nationally.

During the event, participating fire departments suspended all nonemergency activities to focus on firefighter safety issues. Each shift dedicated one full day to the stand down training. Routine annual training - such as maneuvering the fire engines through an obstacle course of orange cones - was scheduled to coincide with the stand down.

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