FDIC: Nation's Firefighters Move to Phase II in To Hell and Back Program

Introduced at last year's Fire Department Instructor's Conference (FDIC), the demand from firefighters across the country for a second chapter in the To Hell and Back burn prevention training program led to the April 18 launch of phase II of the program that focuses on lessons learned when firefighters are burned in the line of duty.

To Hell and Back II: Firefighter Situational Awareness uses advanced 3-D graphics to tell the story of what went wrong in fireground operations when firefighters were burned or killed by burn injuries. It is a free program delivered last week to all 38,000 fire departments across the United States with an Assistance to Firefighters Grant through the Department Homeland Security.

Using real-life experiences of firefighters who also are burn survivors, the To Hell and Back II program was developed by the People's Burn Foundation (PBF) with volunteer and career fire service experts to teach basic situational awareness skills. The program is endorsed by Deputy Fire Chief Billy Goldfeder, nationally recognized for the development of training programs on firefighter safety and survival. A sample video clip of the program can be viewed at http://www.peoplesburnfoundation.org.

In the United States, a fire department responds to a fire every 20 seconds. Last year, more than 100 first responders were killed on the job and hundreds more were injured – many due to burns. Shawn Longerich, executive director of the People's Burn Foundation, said firefighter burn injuries can be significantly reduced when fundamental changes are made that impact complacent behaviors and remind firefighters the importance of wearing and respecting their personal protective equipment.

“The potential this program has for saving lives among the ranks of our career and volunteer firefighters cannot be overstated,” Longerich said. “Despite all of the advances and improvements in firefighter protective gear and training techniques over the past decade, rising statistics indicate that firefighters continue to sustain burn injuries at record numbers.”

Battalion Chief Tom DeMint with the Poudre Fire Authority in Fort Collins, Colo., and member of the To Hell and Back Development Team, said the foundation's work in delivering this kind of program for firefighters will have lasting effects.

“These programs will have a positive impact promoting firefighter health and safety and has already saved firefighters' lives and prevented firefighter injuries,” DeMint said. “This program effectively advances the message that 'Everyone Goes Home.'”

To Hell and Back I, the foundation for phase two of the program, already is a mandatory training program for firefighter I and II level training in Arizona. Other states are expected to follow. The program is also used in training at the National Firefighter Academy.

To Hell and Back II is a 50-minute program that includes five firefighter interviews and 3-D graphics replicating the incident scenarios that caused firefighter burn injuries or the death of fellow firefighters during fireground operations. Goldfeder concludes each scenario with commentary and teaching tools that are designed to correct mistakes and reinforce proper protocols that save firefighter lives.

The People's Burn Foundation also launched this week an associated To Hell and Back program, this one designed specifically for community awareness on the realities of burn injuries and burn prevention education. To Hell and Back: Community Awareness is geared for adults and high school students and is the first of its kind offering “reality TV” on what happens to the skin when a burn injury occurs and the life-long impact of severe burn injuries.

“I believe this is 'must see TV' for every high school student, parent and adult in our community,” Longerich said. “It is graphic and powerful, and it is the reality of burn injuries. But what we really want people to remember is that burn injuries are preventable - this means for firefighters and for general populations.”

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