Jacksonville First Responders in the Crosshairs!

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Jacksonville’s First Responders are constantly called upon to put themselves at risk and do so knowing the dangers of their job on their mind, body, and spirit.   Nationwide, death and injury because of job related illnesses and public violence on first responders has continued to increase without a hint of subsiding.  Firefighters, like Police officers, have always reported to work with the knowledge that dangers exist just by pulling on that uniform but, today’s attacks on those that arrive to emergency scenes first has become more focused and disturbingly more common.

Job related illnesses have also increased despite newer and more advanced safety gear and policies.  Why?  One common opinion is that a house fire in 1952 was more “natural” in material and composition.  Firefighters entered structures that were on fire back then but exposure to what burns in today’s homes and businesses is much different than back in the 50s or 60s.  Most of today’s modern building materials are made of a chemical soup of binding and glued substances  that is the now the norm rather than the exception.  A solid oak cabinet is now laced with chemicals that didn’t even exist back in the early 1950’s.  Breathing apparatus for firefighters has become part of the armor of first responders and to go inside a building on fire today is now unthinkable, except in the most dire of circumstances to save a life.  Why then are firefighters dying of such increased rates of cancer than their predecessors? Possibly, documentation standards have increased and/or studies that pull the blanket back on the real issue of firefighter death and injury statistics is more readily available.

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Either way, the increased dangers of these occupational exposures and the disturbing trend of attacks to first responders has changed the way firefighters and police officers enter and render aid.  Terms like improvised explosive devices (ied’s), situational awareness, and responder targeting has been added to every training scenario when dealing with the people we are supposed to be protecting.

These issues will not be resolved by operating as normal  but must be addressed before that next chemical laden fire is called in or that next disturbed individual decides to ambush those that raised their hand to pledge an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Jacksonville.

 

 

 

 

Cancer and your Local Firehouse

Numerous studies have proven that the risk of being diagnosed with cancer is higher among firefighters than the general population. One such study, conducted in 2006 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, reviewed 32 studies on firefighters to determine the cancer risk. The study’s results confirmed previous findings of an elevated risk for multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate, and testicular cancers. Eight additional cancers were listed as having a “possible” association with firefighting. Similarly, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed 42 studies and reported significant summary risks for prostatic and testicular cancers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, concluding that firefighter exposures were “possibly” carcinogenic to humans.

In a three-year study completed in 2005 by the University of Cincinnati, researchers concluded that firefighters face a:

102% greater chance of contracting testicular cancer than any other type of worker;
53% greater chance of multiple myeloma;
51% greater chance of non-Hodgkin lymphoma;
39% greater chance of skin cancer;
32% greater chance of brain cancer;
28% greater chance of prostate cancer;
22% greater chance of stomach cancer; and a
21% greater chance of colon cancer.

“Firefighters are exposed to numerous cancer-causing substances,” said head researcher Grace LeMasters. “I think obviously they have not got enough protection from that exposure. We feel that the protective gear that protects them from acute exposures, such as heat and carbon monoxide, doesn’t protect them from the chemical residues that cause cancer.”

code3foracure.org

 

 

Sea of Blue! Honoring the past and marching into the future!

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This October 29th in downtown Jacksonville there is something going on that you can’t miss. Starting the day off, hundreds of Jacksonville Professional Firefighters will don their formal uniforms and assemble to honor those that have fallen in defense of Jacksonville and its citizens.  The families of the these honored fallen will be present and those that shape the vision of Jacksonville will be on hand to pay homage.  Where will you be? Last year all of those that live and work downtown filled the streets to see the first somber march or “Sea of Blue” of Jacksonville’s Bravest.

The march will start the morning of October 29th, 9 a.m. at the Jacksonville Landing.  The procession will proceed through downtown to the front of city hall and then return to Bay street where the final destination will be the Jacksonville Fire Museum at Metro Park.  Here the families of the fallen will meet those that have to come  honor their sacrifice for Jacksonville and its citizens.  All the names of those that lost their lives in the service as Jacksonville Firefighters will be recited and the Sea of Blue will have succeeded in their mission.  Join us and become a part of Jacksonville’s history.

Voting with your Eyes Open!

This blog is meant to yield information to Jacksonville Firefighters, their friends and ultimately to the public.

Please take the time and listen to IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger on why ELECTIONS MATTER!   We cannot stress the importance for you, as voters, to not look at party affiliation as a single reason to vote for your representatives in Florida and Washington D.C.  It is not hard to see the attacks that public employees have endured over the last several years and connect that to a culture of fear-mongering and pure philosophical opinions.

We, as firefighters, have seen an unprecedented increase in health issues during career service and after retirement that has yet to be fully studied or acknowledged by our representatives in Tallahassee and D.C.  But, despite that knowledge, firefighters have always been honest, hard-working, and dedicated to the citizens that we serve.

Firefighters must know that when they put themselves in harm’s way, that the citizens they serve have their backs.  This means paying firefighters a fair wage with affordable benefits, and a sound retirement plan.  That is why voting collectively for our  representatives is so crucial.  It takes all of us to rally behind those that support us, regardless of party affiliation. We can quiet our foes politically by voting together before they do us and our families irreparable harm.  Our foes think they have all the answers and they like to pontificate that they know what is the amount you should earn and the benefits that you should receive.  Don’t leave that conversation one-sided!  We must have allies in our elected officials and we must be a part of the conversation.

The elections that are coming up on November 4th 2014, and then in early 2015 are going to be pivotal to the firefighters of Jacksonville.  Please take the time to VOTE with your eyes wide open!

THE TIMES UNION AND IT’S SLANTED EDITORIAL AGENDA

In response to a Editorial article from Ron Littlepage on the Times Union’s publication, Randy Wyse has issued a response to the Florida Times Union on the validity and shortcomings of several erroneous statements made by the article.  To see the opinion article by Ron Littlepage click the attached link.

http://members.jacksonville.com/opinion/premium-opinion/2014-02-20/story/ron-littlepage-pension-stumbling-block-overcome#.Uwe0dvCXcvA.email

President Randy Wyse’s response to the Times Union,

As I read your column this morning, I have a sense that you don’t understand (or purposely omit) a few things that are key to the pension debate.

You quote John Keane saying “We’re not going to make any changes for current employees.”  The part you get right is that Mr. Keane’s job is to administer the fund. In administering any fund, it is the responsibility of the administrator to abide by any court ruling that tells the fund the benefit structure and how the fund is run.

The part you get wrong is that pension benefits are set through collective bargaining with the Fraternal Order of Police and the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.  The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters has maintained that the  30 year contract between the City of Jacksonville and the Police and Fire Pension fund is binding. If you look back through the collective bargaining agreements over the last 4 decades, you will not find any language that relates to pension benefits. Any agreement over pension reform must be between the City of Jacksonville and the Pension fund. The Pension Fund and the City of Jacksonville have come to two agreements over the last 3 years as it relates to pension reform. One agreement with Mayor Peyton and one agreement with Mayor Brown. There were several reasons why neither of these agreements were accepted by the City Council, most of them political.

The unfunded liability is the biggest cost driver as it relates to the City’s annual payment to the Police and Fire pension fund. The Mayor’s Task Force has done great work identifying ways to pay down the unfunded liability. I hope our city leaders will choose to use some of these ideas which will greatly assist with the annual contribution to the fund.

I think it is time to unlatch your simple mind on the thoughts that Police Officers and Firefighters are unwilling to help fix the pension problem.  The Times Union would be well served by assisting the citizens of Jacksonville on understanding the whole pension problem.

Randy Wyse

President

Jacksonville Association of Firefighters