The eighteenth John Redmond Symposium on firefighter safety and health convened on October 23, 2005 in beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii. Over 800 international members of firefighter unions came to share their experiences, expertise, and the passion about the latest health and safety issues confronting the business.

President Hanley, Vice-President Moriarty, and Secretary Kelly led the contingent with the idea we would gather pertinent information to our plight in the city and bring forth any information we had to share with other jurisdictions. President Hanley was co-chair on the CPAT committee in which he explained the importance of having a consistent physical ability test for entering firefighters. Our success in this screening and the legal standing have provided impetus for other jurisdictions to adopt such standards. We heard from numerous doctors and psychologists on job stress and heart disease, which seem measurable and definable leading to programs to combat the firefighter plight. What we were looking for were definable patterns and causes of cancer in firefighters. We are suffering from increased rates of cancer in our department and our looking for direct causes to combat this demon. It is well documented about diesel emissions causing cancer and we have hopefully addressed that by apparatus emission control devices. We certainly have general orders outlining use of S.C.B.A.’s during and after fires. But it is perplexing to this body that certain firehouses or maybe fire incidents lend themselves to a cancer cell which manifested in certain individuals. Former Department Physician, Debra Owen, was looking into grants to follow that lead. I will inquire to the Dept. of Public Health to revisit the actual physical safety and environment of firehouses and their surroundings..

One of many sessions attended was on the subject of CELL TOWER RADIATION and FIREFIGHTER EXPOSURE. Firefighter Tillman from Station #13 informed me of the possible hazards in this area. He was right. Although evidence is inconclusive at this time, Doctor Migola Havas presented a dissertation on her work with Vancouver and San Diego firehouses stressing the need to remove the towers, otherwise protect yourself. The study was prompted by complaints of firefighters dizziness, headaches, and general malaise and vertigo. She measured brain wave activity of both affected and base group firefighters citing marked differences in those groups. Her suggestion to jurisdictions with cell towers is to cover all exposed wires and appliances related to towers. She states if nothing else; simple shields as baseball caps, canopies over beds, and filtered shields in exposed areas work.

Of particular interest to me was a session on applying for federal grants during the HOMELAND SECURITY CRISIS. As one of the bigger departments in the nation, I am quite surprised we cannot secure more grant money for added peace of mind. One realizes we have gained important rescue apparatus, Hazmat, and medical supplies in the SFFD federal grant. But the ongoing picture is immense. Little Fire Departments are receiving full compliments of 24 hour Fitness Gyms. How many firehouses have a full gym to compliment our need to keep in top shape. What happened to our grant writer, who is an expert at attaining these? I think that person is still on the payroll.

It is so easy to play hooky here, Monday there were forty-foot waves breaking on the North Shore; Gerry Shannon should have been here.

I did have time to spend with our District V.P. and former Local 798 President Jim Ferguson, and he fights endlessly for all our safety benefits. He re-iterated the battles coming up for the firefighters statewide and nationally. The Republican government is steadfastly resolved into eliminating pensions and going to 401Ks and a push for private health with reduced benefits is real. He restates our hard fought gains and how young firefighters must not let their zeal be clouded by what is bright one day and perilous in the future.

All the while; Hanley is up in the morning for a workout at six, coffee at eight, handshaking with everyone all day, chewing his nicorette, and barking at me to get a real job.

Fraternally yours,
Terry Smith


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