The Silent 911-Responding Before the Call:
The call comes in, you respond, ready and able because you have prepared for the call.
As you respond, you have already began your size-up, and have referenced the greatest tactical hard-drive ever created:
As you arrive, you assess what you see against your countless simulations, previous calls, and training experiences. You then formulate your Incident Action Plan and begin to execute it.
As conditions warrant you adjust accordingly insuring a successful outcome.
The difference in this incident from all the others is this:
You have responded to the call for help by a fellow brother or sister in the fire service.
As a firefighters we do a tremendous job of serving the public and going above and beyond the call for our fellow firefighters. But what about the moments leading up to the call for help?
If you could have seen the signs of the following would you respond ahead of the call?
Let us introduce a new acronym to help us WATCH out for our brothers and sisters.
W.A.T.C.H: The Firefighter Size-up Acronym:
W: Withdrawl- (Confinement) A once passionate, dedicated, and driven firefighter suddenly loses interest
and fades into the background. Has anyone taken the time to check on them? Is their company officer aware of the problem?
A- Anger, Anxiety, And more…
A firefighter who has dramatic mood changes, is suddenly angered by small events, and is easily irritated. These are signs of an impending flashover in their life.
Some examples of such sudden changes are:
feelings hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, sudden weight loss, sleep changes, loss of energy, self loathing, and concentration problems.
T-Traumatic Stress (PTSD): as much as 37% of firefighters suffer from PTSD
A firefighter who seems troubled by a past event or call. They avoid anything that reminds reminds them of the call. And they seem to have increased anxiety and emotional arousal.
The majority who face great stress look for ways to alleviate it. There are healthy ways to cope such as: exercise, prayer, and meditation, etc.
Then there are unhealthy coping mechanisms such as: excessive drinking/substance abuse, reckless behaviors (otherwise known as the passive suicide attempt), pornography (an attempt to escape) and participating in unhealthy relationships (for example: having an affair).
H-Harming themself: A firefighter who shows any or all of these size-up factors is on the verge of harming themself. They are at a greater risk of suicide and are in need of help. They begin to feel as if they are a burden to everyone. You may notice them start to hesitate at calls that they were once confident at. They have a negative self image and feel
as if they do not belong anymore. They may even talk openly of harming themselves.
What can we do about this problem?
The fire service is a brotherhood. We take of each other from recruit school even after retirement. This responsibility falls upon all of our shoulders from the rookie to the Chief of the department.
Be informed: Each member should be trained to watch for these critical firefighter factors.
Suicide, PTSD, Addiction, Anxiety, & Depression.
The firefighter Behavior Health Alliance is a great resource for firefighters in this area.
Another great resource is 1stResponder Texas which is a comprehensive resource for 1st responders http://t.co/D2M4NUHY4l
Divorce: 9 out of 12 firefighter marriages end in divorce. Some great resources for marriage are:
Firefighter Wife by Lori Mercer. They will be having a firefighter marriage conference in July this year in Chicago. See her website for details and additional resources. She has also created an online community for firefighter wives and more!
Some other great marriage and family resources are: Focus on the family’s weekend to remember marriage conference, visionary marriage ministries.
Each firefighter is trained to recognize the signs of many dangers.
You are now faced with a new training challenge. Applying your training to recognize the signs of danger in your fellow firefighters:
Who in your fellowship has exhibited the signs of a ‘Silent 911’ call?
Be on the W.A.T.C.H. and respond to their call. Take a proactive role in saving our own today.