This is the reply that I received from Ms S. Jane Huwig-Leister
In response to your email to Mr. Goodwin, I offer the following additional information. The proposed study is not intended to do supplemental research to duplicate or augment former initiatives such as the study of fire service stress management accomplished by the United States Fire Administration more than 20 years ago, or similar work(s) of others focusing on mental and emotional health issues in the emergency services.
This study is intended to address occupational risk management from both an organizational and individual behavioral mitigation perspective. The reduction of line of duty deaths and injuries resulting from vehicle crashes, fatalities at fire scenes, and other similar causes will be the focus of the proposed research associated with this requirement. It is intended to examine how to mitigate organizational and individual risk by looking at how to change behavior, while taking into consideration the most up to date science, practices, and information. It is not considered a standalone stress management, mental health, and/or suicide prevention study and those topics will not be a significant component of any deliverable(s) resulting from this procurement effort.
I hope this clarifies the information you saw in the FedBiz Opps announcement.
S. Jane Huwig-Leister
AOD, Preparedness Branch
16825 South Seton Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Office – 301.447.1053
BB – 301.980.9961
The following is my followup to her email above.
March 21, 2012
Thank you for your recent email elaborating on the proposed study that the International Association of Fire Chiefs will be doing with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
I, in no way, am taking away from the importance of safety for every firefighter, career or volunteer, on the fire ground, accident scene, etc. Every effort must be made to reduce deaths in the fire service. In this correspondence, I am not overlooking the departments and families who have experienced a line of duty death.
However, the departments of the federal government in control of the purse strings seem to be skirting the issue that being of good physical and mental health are critical in saving lives. Physical and mental health work hand-in-hand. You cannot focus on one and ignore the other. I will say this again as I did in 2000, “Training them to deal with trauma, stress, and grief is no less important than training them to be safe on the fire ground.”
As I have been doing for many years, I will ask the following questions once again and pray that there will be a definitive answer soon.
1) When—that is the operative word—will funding be made available to provide ongoing help for the firefighters and other emergency response personnel suffering from stress, depression, thoughts of suicide, PTSD, addictions, etc.? Invaluable programs such as stress management, suicide prevention, and coping with loss and grief issues to name a few are needed now!
2) When will funding for counseling, educational programs, and printed materials for coping with grief be made available for the many fire, emergency service, and police departments who have had one of their members die by suicide? WHEN?
3) When will funding for grief programs and counseling be made available for the families who mourn the death of the men and women who have died by suicide? WHEN?
These are some of the many questions that I and hundreds of others have. WHEN?
Peggy Sweeney, President
The Sweeney Alliance
1601 Quinlan Creek Drive
Kerrville, TX 78028
P.S. Shannon Pennington has asked me to include his comments to your email.
Off the top it would seem that again, there are efforts on the side of the fence that administrative and scientific types want to study and the reflection given by her comment “will not be a significant component of any deliverable(s) resulting from this procurement effort” is the low base which is missed. Understanding “Occupational Risk and Occupational Risk Management in the modern Fire Service is inclusive of mental health fitness at all levels of command and the front line firefighterveteran who is impacted by the recognition of the stress and the toll it takes on the individual and teams who respond on America’s streets. It is the essence of L.O.D. injury and Loss/I.D.L.H. to the firefighterveteran on the front line that produces a symbiotic relationship to how the ff approaches the job inclusive of their mental state of being not just the physical aspects of safety. As one workers comp authority put it to us some time ago “what are we going to do if we recognize ptsd and stress in our firefighters, who is going to take care of us then?”. This to my way of thinking, is another example of those who get it and those who do not are left out. The crumbs on the counter are just that and we will continue to advocate for a measured sponsored response and request for funding to assist in rounding out any efforts
to balance the approach to an understanding of firefighter safety culture inclusive of mental health studies and mental health wellness under Section 13 of the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation Everyone Goes Home 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. It is vital to understand that a pro active study includes” mental health and wellness” and the lack of follow on resources that are effective in keeping firefighters focused and balanced in regards to the culture of safety which extends to how they think and how they approach the job otherwise this process becomes another layer of the scientific onion which reproduces yet another funded study to keep people busy and employ’d. The timid response here seems to say that we leave the onion alone and it will not make us work harder to understand what is taking place. We will prevail on getting the agenda moved ahead however when you see this type of process and response as it is, one becomes aware it is like serving up the stew with no meat and potatoes in it. It is another soup by any other definition but call it a stew if you want. My thoughts my way as a former career IAFF firefighterveteran with 26 years service. Please include this posting to Jane in your newsletter mail out.
Warm Regards in service to the front line “Rubber Boot Warriors”
Shannon Pennington Executive Director, Senior Chief (Administrative)
North American Firefighter Veteran Network on the internet: firefighterveteran.com