Thoughts and Prayers are Hollow Without Conviction

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, co-workers, and friends of  Rocky Mount, Virginia Fire Chief Posey Dillon, who died today along with Firefighter William Daniel “Danny” Altice in a horrific traffic accident while responding to a house fire.

I’m following this tragedy from many sources, but I know my partner Rhett is all over it at VA FireNews.  If the initial reports coming out of Rocky Mount are true, these two firefighters have died while not wearing their seat belts.

I’ll say it:


We will never know if seat belts would have made a difference.  Initial reports seem to say that a vehicle hit the apparatus.  Nothing they could do, right?  Plus, anytime any fire apparatus flips multiple times, the chances for survival are bleak.

But what are the chances for survival if the occupants are not belted?

As we all pause, yet again, to claim that our thoughts and prayers are with the firefighters and their families, make a difference.  Vow to never let your apparatus turn a wheel unless EVERYONE IS BELTED.

Whether you are the company officer, the driver, or riding backwards- never accept- for any reason- that the apparatus moves without everyone belted.  Period.

Has your department attained 100% compliance with signing the International Seat Belt Pledge?

International Seat Belt Pledge

“I pledge to wear my seat belt whenever I am riding in a Fire Department vehicle. I further pledge to insure that all my brother and sister firefighters riding with me wear their seat belts. I am making this pledge willingly; to honor Brian Hunton my brother firefighter because wearing seat belts is the right thing to do.”

Last week at Firehouse Expo, I had the honor and priviledge to sit down and talk with Dr. Burton Clark, originator of the seat belt pledge. He is a man who has, for years, tirelessly been spreading the word for firefighters to buckle up.

We were recording an interview for Firefighter NetCast in which this wise man brought up a very valid point:

Wearing seat belts save firefighters lives, yet not all firefighters are wearing them.  We can all make the decision to wear them.  We can “decide”, as an entire group, to save lives.

This is different from deciding that heart attacks won’t kill us.  This is different from deciding that walls won’t collapse, and stairways won’t fail.  This is different from from deciding that flashovers and backdrafts and all the other hostile fire events won’t take us out.

We can’t decide on these.  But we CAN DECIDE that failure to wear seat belts will no longer kill us.

I am sickened at the continued unnecessary gut-wrenching agony we all face as we begin the process to bury more brothers.  Especially if it isn’t necessary.

As we watch the funerals, refuse to accept anything less than complete adherence to wearing belts.  Commit to save ourselves from ourselves.

Put some oomph into your words concerning thoughts and prayers.

Click here for the link to the Seat Belt Pledge, and get your department 100% compliant.


  • Greg Friese says:

    John thanks for asking the question that has been on my mind as well … WTF.

    Amazing to me that anyone finds it acceptable to roll out of the station without a seatbelt.

    These deaths are absolutely tragic, but likely could have been prevented by taking the quick action to apply a seatbelt.

    Ride safe everyone.

  • John Broyles says:

    John, I must say that I agree 100% and then some that we all need to wear our seat belts. I've had this drilled in my head since before I started driver's ed back in high school.

    Unfortunately, I am the only one on my department that refuses to put the vehicle, whether it be my engine, any other engine, or one of the rescue trucks, in gear unless I know at least my seat belt is on and fastened.

    I've been told by officers in my department not to worry about wearing them because we aren't going that far and will be out of the truck in short order. I've actually been chastised by my own captain for REFUSING to put our smaller rescue truck in gear unless I hear “3 other clicks”…even got told to get out of the driver's seat on that call.

    It appalls me that we actually do this.

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John Mitchell

Firefighter/Paramedic and a Lieutenant in suburban Chicago

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