Health & Safety

June 8, 2012

First responders: Potential victims?

By Senior Airman Jack Sanders
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Senior Airman Brendan Raine, 99th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, downs a two-liter bottle of water during a patrol June 1, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. With summer temperatures reaching peaks that challenge the body’s ability to handle heat, remaining hydrated is as critical to first responders’ ability to handle emergencies as any other job preparation step.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Arriving on scene, first responders rush to the aid of a summer heat victim. As one of the responders starts to treat the victim the unthinkable happens: the first responder is now victim number two.

“I’ve seen it happen first hand,” said Staff Sgt. William Croker, 99th Security Forces Flight Chief for Alpha Two. “You’re attending to a victim and all of a sudden you have one of your other first responders pass out because they weren’t hydrated, and now you have to take care of that victim and the other first responder. It can make a difficult job even harder.”

First responders work in stress-filled environments where they often experience burnout, “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” When first responders reach the burnout point, safety decisions can be neglected and lead to harmful results. That’s why Nellis first responders train and take daily precautions.

“You have to keep safety in the forefront of your mind,” Croker said. “There are ongoing briefings daily about safety. Every day we have a morning formation before we go out and we brief about – especially with how hot it is – how important it is to stay hydrated and to take care of your partners.”

Looking out for wingmen is always among first responders’ top priorities. That priority is crucial – not only during the summer months, but at all times.

“Be a great wingman, an engaged supervisor and the one who sets the example for safety both on and off duty,” said Maj. Gen. Gregory Feest, Air Force Chief of Safety, in a statement on the Air Force Safety Center website.

The majority of Air Force fatalities take place during the summer months. Safety incidents at Nellis increase during these times, too. Last year Nellis had nine on-duty safety incidents and seven off-duty incidents.

Croker said it is important for first responders to ensure they’re taking care of themselves to perform their job adequately, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to maintain personal risk management. Every safety incident is preventable.

The Critical Days of Summer safety campaign runs from May 25 through Sept. 3, 2012. For more information about the Critical Days of Summer safety campaign visit http://www.afsec.af.mil/criticaldaysofsummer/.




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