The members of the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department take safety and health seriously. While firefighters there note safety is a top priority all year, during Safety Stand Down the department suspended non-essential activities to focus on safety information and practices.
Everett Burris notes that the focus on safety and health will not end with Safety Stand Down. “The plan is to continue to research, plan for new opportunities, and enforce the safety policies we have in place. We plan to hold everyone to a higher standard,” he said.
Jeffrey Simmons added, “My department always makes safety a number one priority. We do drills periodically to make sure we’re proficient in our job. We also watch videos about how to be aware of the dangers that occur with the job.”
Kawan Rice explains that the department has implemented Safety Officers 24/7 over the past few years and that members conduct drills and continue to attain knowledge on an ongoing basis.
According to Ryan Schlegel, staying disciplined when it comes to wearing PPE and SCBA is always at the forefront. The department implements safety measures to protect personnel from toxins, including “Hood Wash Sunday,” washing PPE after every fire, showering and changing clothes after every fire, conducting gross decon of PPE while at the scene, and wearing PPE from initial entry through overhaul.
In addition to emphasizing safety in all areas of operation, leadership also focuses on the importance of good health for their firefighters and EMTs. Personnel are encouraged to be accountable and take responsibility for their health. By staying fit and healthy, they not only lessen their risks of illnesses but also strengthen their abilities as firefighters. Said Simmons, “You have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else.”
Schlegel notes that personnel recognize how staying healthy and fit improves their performance on the job. “My crew goes to the gym every shift we work to stay in physical shape to perform our duties,” he said. “My crew also started cooking more healthy meals at dinner time instead of greasy meals that we used to make.”
Burris noted how he has worked to improve his health so he can be the best firefighter he can be. “I have personally initiated training and lifestyle changes that have made an impact on my life, and will continue to do so,” he said. “I have joined a gym and increased my cardio exercise. This will improve my job perform performance. I’ve made significant lifestyle changes with my diet, and this too has helped improve my alertness and situational awareness, thus contributing towards overall safety in the department.”