Archive for March 21st, 2016

OSHA looks at firefighter safety … and fire poles

Excerpts from

A potential new standard for emergency responders from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration could force many small emergency services organizations to shut down and, in a controversial move, ban installation of fire poles at new fire stations if adopted, according to stakeholders.

OSHA has asked the National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health for recommendations for a proposed emergency responder preparedness program standard, and the committee’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Subcommittee has been tasked with drafting the standard.

The draft proposal outlines several requirements designed to identify and address workplace health and safety hazards for these organizations and their employees.

For example, it would require baseline and annual medical evaluations for firefighters and other first responders  personnel, including a medical history, a physical exam and laboratory tests required to detect physical or medical conditions that could adversely affect their ability to safely perform essential job functions. In 2014, a total of 64 firefighters died while on duty in the United States, with sudden cardiac death accounting for 56% of those deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

However, the current proposal does not address the key question of who must pay for these medical evaluations, and the cost of compliance would significantly strain the resources of state and organizations.

Phil Stittleburg, chief of the LaFarge Fire Department in Wisconsin, a volunteer department that services a rural community with an annual budget of about $65,000, said a requirement to conduct annual physicals would force him into making difficult decisions about paying for these physicals versus replacing critical safety equipment such as helmets at the recommended time intervals.

The draft standard would also require new emergency service organization facilities fire stations to utilize stairs or slides to provide rapid access to a lower level, barring the building of new poles at these facilities two years after a final rule is published — a controversial provision aimed at addressing a source of serious injuries and even fatalities for firefighters. In April 2012, for example, an Alameda County, California firefighter fractured his leg when he landed at the base of the fire pole, allegedly with his legs in the wrong position, according to OSHA.

“OSHA recognizes that there are a lot of injuries from people sliding down poles and hitting the bottom too hard, and one way of reducing those injuries is to eliminate the installation of new poles and instead provide stairs or slides,” said Bill Hamilton, a fire protection engineer in the OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance’s Office of Safety Systems in Washington.

However, the poles are a cherished part of firehouse tradition, which could trigger a backlash against the entire proposal, according to some stakeholders.

“This is very clear regulatory language prohibiting something that is ingrained in the tradition of the fire service,” said Kenneth Willette, division manager with the National Fire Protection Association’s Public Fire Protection Division in Quincy, Massachusetts. “While there’s some regulatory benefit to including it, it could be a potential lightning rod that might create an obstacle for the intent of this work.”

The subcommittee opted to seek out specific information about the number of injuries and fatalities sustained by emergency responders firefighters using poles compared with stairs and slides before making a final recommendation.

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Libertyville FD promotions and awards

Excerpts from the

Two Libertyville firefighters who will be promoted to top spots next week share more than a long tenure on the department.

Mike Pakosta, is being promoted to deputy chief, and Mike Hall will be promoted to lieutenant taking Pakosta’s place on the same shift. They are hometown guys and childhood friends who met when they were 9 years old.

In 2002, Pakosta began his tenure in Libertyville. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2014 and will become the first deputy chief the department has had in about 25 years, as the position has been vacant due to budget considerations.

The Libertyville fire department has 41 full-time employees and six or seven of them are Libertyville natives, according to Chief Rich Carani.

Also Tuesday, firefighters Mike Stanek, Tom Pitel, Mike Grempka, Justin Haedt, Andrew Yarc and Jered Woodward will be recognized for an award sponsored by Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital recognizing team efforts that save lives.

thanks Dan

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Veteran Chicago firefighter dies

Excerpts from the

After returning from combat in the Pacific during World War II, Russell Harper landed a job as an officer in the West Chicago Police Department.

Not long after that, his father, a battalion chief with the Chicago Fire Department, handed his son a firefighter’s application and said, “You’re not going to get rich doing this, but I guarantee it’s one of the most rewarding careers you could ever have,” according to Harper’s son, Ron.

Harper, whose three brothers also became firefighters in the Chicago area, completed the application, and in 1948 was accepted into the CFD and assigned to a series of firehouses on the Near West Side.

Harper, 94, died Feb. 16 in Glendale, Ariz. Previously a longtime Northwest Side resident, he retired from the fire department in 1985 after 37 years of service and moved to Arizona a year later.

Harper was born and raised on the West Side and graduated from Crane Tech High School. In 1952, he received the prestigious Carter H. Harrison Award. The award, given annually since 1885 to those within the Chicago Fire and Police departments who have performed distinguished acts of bravery in the protection of life or property.

According to a Chicago Tribune story at the time, Harper and his company responded to a fire at 1226 S. Kedzie Ave. on Nov. 1, 1951. Harper entered a burning first floor apartment to rescue a woman who was burned and unconscious on the kitchen floor. After carrying her to safety, Harper collapsed on the sidewalk. He was taken to the hospital and later recovered.

Award presentation

“It happened back when there was no such thing as breathing apparatuses,” said his younger brother, Bill, a retired West Chicago fire chief. “During that rescue, Russ’ lungs were filled with smoke, and he barely made it out of that building alive.”

In the years that followed, Harper also served as a captain on the North Side with Engine 83, at 1219 W. Gunnison St. He and his men were the first engine company on the scene when in May 1979 American Flight 191 went down in Elk Grove Village, just minutes after takeoff from O’Hare International Airport.

Prior to retiring in 1985, his last assignment was as captain at O’Hare Airport.

Harper also is survived by his wife of 73 years, Elia; a daughter, Penelope Campana; six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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New pumper/tanker for Somonauk FPD

This from Global Emergency Products:

Somonauk Fire Protection District, IL – Arrow-XT pumper/tanker

new fire engine for the Somonauk Fire Department

Pierce composite

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