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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Slip Sliding Away

A Brainerd firefighter shows the safest way to enter a vehicle
It always happens fast. The firefighter, medic, or police officer is concentrating on the call they are handling, and often carrying equipment like a medical bag, an axe, a flashlight, or a clipboard—and suddenly they slip and fall on ice. Once they are down, there is a momentary loss of awareness and usually a quick mental check of what just happened. That is often followed by a self-assessment and a check to see if they are injured.  

Aggressive treads and ice cleats are "like four-wheel drive"
Too often, they are injured. Eleven percent (11%) of the police work comp injuries are the results of slips and falls on ice. That number is even higher for firefighters due to the icy environment at winter fire calls. In addition to the lifting and carrying of heavy equipment, firefighters are usually walking with an air pack on their back. We also know that statistically an injury from a slip and fall on ice is more severe than a “normal’ slip and fall.  

As we head into winter, there are four proven tips to reduce ice- and snow-related slips and falls.

#1. Awareness. Bring up the dangers of slips and falls at trainings, meetings, and roll calls. Remind each other at the scenes of emergencies to be careful, look for ice and packed snow, and identify the hazards. When snow is predicted or when we are in the freeze and thaw cycles, these reminders should be daily.


#2.  Footwear. Be sure your boots have aggressive tread to minimize slips. Get ahead of the problem and have your new boots before the weather changes.

Ice cleats can quickly be applied to fire boots

#3. Ice cleats. They work, they go on and off fast, and they don’t impair your ability to drive. Last winter the city of Willmar gave every responder a set of Yaktrax-brand cleats. One of the police officers said, “It was like I had four-wheel drive!” They slip on over your fire boots or duty boots in just a few seconds. There are a couple of brands and models. My pair cost $21.50 online.

Champlin officer Joan Radke maintains three points of contact

#4. Three points of contact. This technique for getting in and out of a vehicle is a time-proven method to avoid slips and falls. The goal is to have at least three of a responder’s arms and legs in contact with a solid surface as they get in and out of a their car or truck. For fire apparatus, that means climbing down backwards and making use of the grab bars and steps. For police officers, it means coming out forwards but holding on to the door (or door frame) as they get their feet underneath them. It takes some practice, but it works.

Our statistics show that a slip or fall on ice is a 25% higher claim than a “normal” fall.


                                      Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “YouTube/Social Media Meets Your Emergency Call”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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