On this blog I really try to keep it productive… useful tips, stuff that can be implemented. I try to see myself as part of the solution- not the problem.
But sometimes, there are no tips to share about a topic.
Today I wanted to share an opinion, one that is becoming stronger and stronger the more I get involved in the firefighting arena.
I’ve talked to many wives and spouses, even more so now that I have people contacting me because of this blog.
We’ve talked about all kinds of things, and you’ll see it mentioned in some of the posts. How women firefighters have husbands who have to learn how to cope, and firefighter wives who have zero idea about cancer or PTSD.
I’ve tried to be a part of the solution.
But today, I’m angry, so I’m going to write this out.
If you want to save Firefighters, you need to involve their spouses.
Sure, it sounds like common sense.
But is it applied?
Ehhh, why don’t you ask the firefighter wife whose knee deep in household obligations and work because her husband has occupational cancer?
Or the widow who didn’t even realize her firefighter was at risk?
Or the husband who can’t understand why some male firefighters are so damn rude to his wife?
Or the firefighter girlfriend who doesn’t understand why her boyfriend pushes her away, despite telling her that he loves her but this job is too dangerous?
It’s a team affair people.
Not the instagram, ‘we’ll take it from here’ BS.
We hear it all the time at training, and meetings and conferences. Yet how many times do we involve the family? How many times are the wives prepared to understand what this life is really like?
How many times do we say to the husbands and wives, “hey, your firefighter may not want to talk about it, but they are at much higher risks for cancer and ptsd. While we’re talking, I know you must be lonely too- but theres resources available for the both of you!”
Even better are the people that stoke the fire. That say that firefighters divorce more than average.
I’ve written an entire post about it but in a nut shell, the data just doesn’t support that assumption. In fact, firefighters divorce less than military. Firefighters are average.
But how many people want to start drama and cause accusations to be made. Then we have spouses that have not only the wrong information, but damaging information.
We know that marriage is a protective factor in preventing suicide– so why are people actively trying to break up marriages with drama and incorrect facts?
Listen, I’m not knocking the people that are making a difference. I see you. I applaud you. I know you’re out there trying to save lives.
What drives me crazy is the other people that think that cancer is no big deal, or that PTSD just goes away on its own.
That’s how you end up with not only dead firefighters but dead families.
We know improperly cleaned bunker gear contributes to cancer, yet how many people bring it home? In the family car? To use for newborn pictures?
Had that bunker gear ever seen a fire? NO. Because we know the risks.
These people out there, especially volunteers don’t know all the risks.
Hell, we don’t even have medical coverage in all of the United States for cancer or behavioral health.
Look here, we have more data now than ever before.
If we want to help our firefighters, not only do we need to educate them, but we need to educate their spouses.
Spouses are the frontline of defense. They can reach out when behavioral health needs assistance, they can help their firefighter establish good hygiene and cleaning habits in the effort to reduce cancer.
Spouses are there with the firefighters every day- we need them to be on the same team.
When we involve the spouses- we take this from a private work thing, to a much larger life event.
And it’s so simple.
-Invite spouses to a yearly meeting to go over improvements at the station.
-Have a slideshow about health and prevention at the Christmas party.
-Send a packet of info to the address in file addressed to husband and wife.
-Encourage an auxiliary for the spouses to join.
-Have a meet and greet event for new hires where they bring their family.
What else? What else can we do? Let’s collaborate. Let’s find ways that more people can be aware of the risks firefighters have, and some of the ways we know they can be prevented. If we don’t save our firefighters, who will save us when we need it?