We had a wonderful time at the 2017 Texas Sized Breakfast to kick off 2017 Emergency Services Legislative Day. Thanks to everyone who joined this morning as well as at the Lunch at the State Capitol.
VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual Insurance Company recently awarded $228,000 in grants to 90 emergency responder organizations across Texas. Funds awarded through the 2017 Emergency Responder Safety, Training & Wellness Grant Program will reimburse these organizations for 2017 individual member certification dues, as well as health and wellness programs, and travel costs to attend training.
Grants of up to $5,000 have been awarded based on financial need and are intended to encourage all departments to participate in certification, training and health/wellness programs to prevent emergency responder deaths and injuries.
This is the fourth consecutive year of this grant program sponsored by VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Since 2014, close to $500,000 has been distributed to emergency service organizations across the state of Texas. This program has been recognized nationwide among the insurance industry and emergency service community (Insurance Journal).
Alabama Coushatta Indian Nation VFD
Apple Springs VFD
Ata Bexar VFD
Beasley Community VFD
Ben Bolt VFD
Black Jack VFD
Blackjack VFD of Robertson Co
Bowman Community VFD
Brazos Co Precinct 4 VFD
Cash Fire Dept
Castroville Vol Fire Company
Cat Spring VFD
Central Community VFD
Chapel Hill VFD
Chisholm Trail Fire Rescue
City of San Diego FD
Coryell City-Osage VFD
Cottonwood Shores VFD
Cove Fire & Rescue
Davis Mountains Prop Owners VFD
Edwards Co EMS
Elm Mott Fire Rescue
Grand Saline VFD
Hughes Springs VFD
Indian Creek VFD
Iowa Park VFD
Jefferson Co Water District #10 VFD
Justin Community VFD
La Junta VFD
Lakeside City VFD
Morgans Point VFD
Ore City VFD
Plum Grove VFD
Possum Kingdom Westside VFD
Prairie Hill Rocky Hill VFD
Prairie View Vol FF Assn
Preston Vol EMS
Rusk Co Rescue Unit
Silver Creek VFD
South Ector Co VFD
South Polk Co VFD
Southside Henderson Co VFD
Southwest Bell Co VFD
By Keith Brandstedter, Glatfelter Specialty Benefits President
Firefighters have long recognized the dangers of running into a burning building. They understand the need to protect themselves from the extreme environments modern residential fires can bring.
Today’s firefighters face many hidden dangers as well. Carcinogens within the smoke and soot, as well as stress created by life-and-death situations, can take their toll on volunteer and career firefighters alike.
Statistics can paint a bleak picture for many of your members. Did you know that firefighters are up to 100 times more likely to have a heart attack while battling to put out a fire or that they are 14 times more likely to suffer a heart attack when simply responding to an alarm?1
You may be asking, “What if one of our members gets sick? What if these hidden dangers bring cancer or a heart attack to our doorstep?”
The death statistics are tragic. Sudden cardiac deaths accounted for 51 percent of all on duty deaths for 2015.2 The International Association of Fire Fighters estimates that 60 percent of all firefighter deaths have arisen as a result of cancer since 2002.3
More than likely, your organization offers some sort of life insurance to members that will help their families cope with potential tragic losses. Yet, what about the firefighters who survive a tragedy? What benefits does your organization provide for them? Critical Illness coverage can help.
Given recent advances in medicine, heart attacks and cancer are not the death sentences they once were. Firefighters are now living longer in spite of suffering these serious illnesses. The death rate for cardiovascular disease has fallen 39 percent since 2001.4 In 1971, there were only 3 million cancer survivors; today there are over 12 million.5
Firefighters are surviving these terrible diseases, but the illnesses can take a huge financial toll. The average out-of-pocket expense for a cancer patient is $1,266 per month,6 while heart disease averages an out-of-pocket expense of $21,955 annually.7
Life insurance does not pay benefits unless a firefighter dies. Unfortunately, this financial burden is playing out in bankruptcy courts with medical expenses accounting for 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies.8 Cancer patients are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy.9 The sad truth is that 80 percent of those filing for medical bankruptcy had health insurance, and they thought they were covered.10 However, they were not.
Today more than ever, a living benefit is needed. Health insurance alone may not provide enough to keep your cancer or heart attack survivor out of bankruptcy. If one of your members gets sick, a Critical Illness policy can offer lump sum funds that can provide financial assistance when it is truly needed the most.
If one of your members gets sick, a VFIS Critical Illness policy can offer lump sum funds that can provide financial assistance when it is truly needed the most. To find out more about the VFIS Critical Illness policy, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Kales, Stefanos N., Elpidoforos S. Soteriades, Costas A. Christophi, and David C. Christiani. “Emergency Duties and Deaths from Heart Disease among Firefighters in the United States — NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine. New England Journal of Medicine, 22 Mar. 2007. Web.
2 Fahy, Rita F., Paul R. LeBlanc, and Joseph L. Molis. “NFPA Journal.” NFPA Journal - Firefighter Fatalities in the United States 2015, July August 2016. NFPA Journal, July-Aug. 2016. Web.
3 Khazan, Olga. “How Modern Furniture Endangers Firefighters.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 11 Sept. 2015. Web.
4 VanKim, Nicole. Heart Disease and Stroke in New Mexico: Facts and Figures: At-a-glance. Albuquerque, NM: New Mexico Department of Health, 2008. One Brave Idea. Web.
5 “US Cancer Survivors Grows to Nearly 12 Million.” National Cancer Institute. National Cancer Institute, 10 Mar. 2011. Web.
6 Duke University Medical Center, 2014 http://clearhealthcosts. com/tag/duke-universitymedical-center
7 “Reforming Health Care: If It Isn’t Affordable, It Isn’t Fixed.” FACTS. American Heart Association. American Heart Association. Web.
8 Living., Simple. Thrifty. “Top 10 Reasons People Go Bankrupt.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Mar. 2015. Web.
9 “The Hidden Cost of Survival: Study Finds Bankruptcy Rates among Cancer Patients Increase along with Survival Time.” Fred Hutch. 06 June 2011. Web.
10 “Medical Bankruptcy FAQ.” Medical Bankruptcy FAQ - Medical Bills & Bankruptcy Questions. Web.
Author: Chris Daly of www.fireapparatusmagazine.com. Source: Part 1. Part 2.
While many may think that the catastrophic failure of a tire is a rare event, they are actually much more common than we might think. The fire apparatus operator must be trained and prepared to handle the sudden and violent loss of control associated with a tire blowout. Failure to train our drivers on this important aspect of apparatus operation can result in tragedy, as evidenced by a review of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Firefighter Fatality Reports.
On August 19, 2001, an Oregon firefighter lost his life when the tanker he was driving experienced a catastrophic failure (blowout) of the front right tire (NIOSH Report #F2001-36). As a result, the vehicle left the roadway and struck a large boulder and a tree. The firefighter victim became heavily entrapped in the tanker; emergency medical personnel pronounced him dead at the scene (photo 1).
Investigation revealed that the victim was traveling on an interstate highway after picking the truck up from a repair shop. As he traveled down the highway, he attempted to move into the left lane and pass a tractor trailer. After passing the tractor trailer, he was attempting to change back into the right lane when the right front tire blew out. After the blowout, the vehicle traveled approximately 535 feet before striking the boulder and tree.
State Police investigators inspected the vehicle after the crash and found that the tire that failed was “a 1979 model and that the outer shell fragment of the tire revealed a brittle and obviously aged material.” In addition, “pieces of the steel cords showed signs of rust from years of moisture exposure due to openings in the tread.” (1) This fatality occurred in 2001, which makes the tire in question approximately 22 years old at the time of the crash (photo 2).
On March 3, 2004, a Florida firefighter was killed when the right front tire of the brush truck he was driving blew out (NIOSH Report #F2004-15). The vehicle left the road, struck a culvert, flipped over, and came to rest upside down in approximately two feet of water (photo 3). The victim firefighter was trapped in the cab of the vehicle and subsequently drowned.
Investigation of this crash revealed that the victim was traveling approximately 55 miles per hour along a straight road when the blowout occurred. A crash reconstructionist who investigated the incident noted that the tire damage “resembled similar damage documentation patterns resulting from a previous impact that may have compromised the inner tire radial ply and liner.” In other words, the tire had sustained an impact on an earlier date that resulted in damage to the inside of the tire. As a result of this existing damage and other possible factors, a tire blowout resulted (see photo 4). The reconstructionist noted that this damage is “nearly impossible to detect because the tires may still hold air and show no outward signs of deformation.”(2)
A number of factors can lead to a tire blowout. Some believe that a tire blowout is the result of too much air in a tire, but this is usually not the case. The two most common causes of tire blowout are tires that are underinflated or overloaded.
The structure of a tire does not support the weight of the vehicle—the air inside the tire supports the weight of the vehicle. This is the same theory behind lifting air bags used for rescue. The lifting bag does not lift the load; the AIR in the bag lifts the load.
An underinflated tire does not have enough air pressure inside of it to support the weight of the vehicle. When this occurs, the structure of the tire begins to support the weight of the vehicle. In this situation, the sidewall of the tire begins to bulge out as it takes over the job of supporting the vehicle’s weight. The lower the air pressure, the more the tire bulges, just as we’ve all seen with a flat tire.
If you picture a tire attached to a parked vehicle, you can plainly see how the top of the tire is rounded and the bottom of the tire bulges between the axle and the roadway (photo 5).
A tire mounted on an axle is asymmetrical. The top of the tire is rounded while the bottom of the tire is “squished.” As the tire rotates, it changes shape from “round” at the top to “squished” at the bottom. The tire changes shape by flexing the sidewalls of the tire. This constant flexing of the sidewalls produces heat.
Now imagine this tire driving down the road at 60 miles per hour, rotating a few hundred times a minute. As the tire rotates, the sidewalls constantly flex and change between being rounded at the top of the rotation and becomes “squished” as it comes in contact with the roadway. This constant flexing causes the sidewalls of the tire to heat up. Under normal circumstances—in a properly inflated and loaded tire—the tire can handle the heat generated by the flexing sidewalls. However, if the tire is low on air and therefore not able to properly support the weight of the vehicle, the sidewalls may overheat as they rotate around the axle. This excess heat is caused by the constant overflexing of the sidewalls. The more the sidewalls have to flex, the more heat that will build up. If the tire heats up too much, it may fail and cause a blowout.
A similar situation may occur if the vehicle is overweight. In this case, the tire may have the proper air pressure inside for the weight the vehicle was designed to carry. However, if too much equipment or an oversized load is placed on the vehicle, the recommended air pressure will no longer be able to support the weight of the vehicle. As a result, the tire will begin to bulge at the bottom, just as it would if it were underinflated. Once again, the constant overflexing of the tire as the vehicle drives down the road may cause excess heat to build up and the tire to suddenly fail without warning. Combine an underinflated tire with an overloaded vehicle, and disaster is likely.
Bridgestone/Firestone conducted a study of emergency medical service vehicles to examine the inflation pressures of dual tire assemblies. The results of this study were quite startling. For starters, 39 percent of the tires couldn’t be checked because there was no access to the valve stems. (3) Of those tires that could be checked, two-thirds were found to be underinflated by at least 20 psi—or 25 percent capacity. (3) According to the tire industry, a tire that is 20 percent underinflated is considered to have been “run flat.” A tire that has been run flat may result in damage to the tire, which can result in an unexpected and catastrophic blowout.
Bridgestone/Firestone EMS Vehicle Tire Survey (3)
Inside Dual Over 20 psi Underinflated 33%
Outside Dual over 20 psi Underinflated 15%
Couldn’t Check 39%
Checked OK 13%
Key points to remember are:
• Tire pressures must be checked regularly to ensure that tires are properly inflated.
• NFPA 1901 D.4.3 states that fire apparatus tires shall not be more than seven years old.
1. NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Investigative Report #F2001-36.
2. NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Investigative Report #F2004-15.
3. “Ready to Roll: The Shocking Truth!” Bridgestone/Firestone, publication BF50919, July 2001.
CHRIS DALY is a 24-year veteran of the fire service and a full-time police officer who specializes in the reconstruction of serious vehicle crashes and emergency vehicle crashes. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board member. He developed the “Drive to Survive” training program (www.drivetosurvive.org) which has been presented to over 14,000 emergency responders across the country and lectures nationally on the prevention of emergency vehicle crashes. Chris has been a contributing author to Fire Engineering and a regular presenter at FDIC International.
Open Enrollment is now in effect for the Fire Department Assistance - Texas A&M Forest Service Rural VFD Insurance Program (HB 3667) as the enrollment dates have changed to 11/1/16 - 7/31/17. Learn more by CLICKING HERE.
Fire and EMS stations are used to house apparatus, equipment and other items needed to support operations. They contain the bulk of the assets of any department or company.
In many locations, stations are also a community hub providing meeting space, fundraising and social activities. Like any asset, a station must be maintained to hold its value. In emergency services, we take great pride in our equipment and its ability to perform under the most adverse conditions. Why are we confident in our equipment? We regularly check it and maintain it to help assure it will work as intended when it is needed.
Are we taking the same level of care with our station(s)? Do we regularly inspect them to help ensure everything is working properly and that they are being maintained free of hazards? Self-inspections are a good way to document efforts to maintain a safe place to work and a safe place for our community and visitors.
Periodic safety and maintenance inspections of station buildings and grounds allows for the identification of potentially hazardous conditions. These inspections may help minimize property damage, limit liability claims and ensure the safety of members, employees and visitors.
These inspections may be used to evaluate:
If you are not sure where to start, or are looking to evaluate the program you have in place, VFIS can help. We have an award-winning distance learning class, In the Station: Best Practices in Station Safety, that provides guidance on areas to focus on during self-inspections.
Access this course through VFIS University (vfisu.com) free of charge for VFIS clients. VFIS also has a self inspection form that may be used to document self-inspections. This can be found under SafetyCentral, Property Management.
shop.vfis.com/By Scott Harkins, CSP, CPCU, ARM, Senior Vice President Risk Control Services (originally posted on www.vfis.com)
Most volunteer emergency service departments rely heavily on the ability of their members to respond to calls, either to the scene or the station, in their personal vehicles. While this is essential to the organization’s ability to react to emergencies in a timely manner, there are also inherent risks. The most significant risk associated with allowing volunteers to respond in their personal vehicles is that they may operate them as if they are emergency vehicles or disobey motor vehicle laws. All too often, this leads to accidents.
Motor vehicle laws
While motor vehicle laws vary from state to state, all states address the issue of response in personally owned vehicles similarly: personal vehicles are not emergency vehicles and are not permitted the same, if any, exemptions to motor vehicle laws. For example, while responding, licensed emergency vehicles may be allowed to exceed the posted speed limit, move against the normal flow of traffic and proceed through a negative intersection control device, however, volunteers driving POVs are required to obey applicable state motor vehicle code.
When asked why they volunteer, most members talk about providing a service to their community or helping their neighbors. Not following motor vehicle laws while operating a motor vehicle does not provide a service to the community or help your neighbors. In fact, it puts your neighbors at risk.
Some motor vehicle codes address the use of “courtesy lights.” These lights are a visual request asking other drivers to allow you to pass them upon your approach. They are not a demand for right-of-way, nor do they permit the driver to illegally pass or speed up to overtake any vehicle. Motor vehicle codes do vary, and an understanding of your state laws is important in determining how to manage this risk.
The response of your members in their POVs helps form the perception that your community has of your organization. Don’t you want that perception to be positive?
Your organization may wish to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with members responding in their personal vehicles by looking at alternative ways of getting personnel to the scene. For example, the creation and use of duty crews (members staffing predetermined shifts) would eliminate the need to have large numbers of volunteers responding to every call. A duty crew could staff a full first unit response to handle most calls. This would minimize the amount and the number of times volunteers are on the road in POVs.
Standard operating procedures
If your members are going to continue to respond to calls in personal vehicles, help minimize the risk of death or injury by developing and enforcing standard operating procedures (SOPs). These procedures should include, but not be limited to, the following:
Volunteers responding in personal vehicles must obey their state motor vehicle code with respect to courtesy light and siren privileges.
SOPs should not be more restrictive than applicable motor vehicle codes.
Volunteers are not to use courtesy lights as a license to operate their personal vehicles as if they are emergency vehicles. Have the department chief approve all courtesy lights and issue a written permit. The permit could include the “rules of the road” that apply.
Volunteers responding in personal vehicles should never exceed the posted speed limit.
Volunteers responding in personal vehicles are to come to a complete stop at all stop signs and red traffic signals, and must wait for normal right-of-way before proceeding.
Procedures for at-the-scene parking/staging should be included in SOPs.
Volunteers must have personal auto liability insurance with appropriate liability limits. This will help protect not only the volunteer but also your organization.
Once they are developed, include SOPs in new-member orientation and driver training sessions. After every member receives a written copy of your SOPs, have them sign off that they received them and understand them. In addition, develop written enforcement and progressive discipline guidelines for any member who violates procedures.
When volunteers respond to calls, they need to understand that, first and foremost, they must arrive at the emergency scene or the station safely in order to be of any help to the public. Leaders must set the example by responding appropriately because members notice what their leaders do and follow that lead.
Need help? VFIS has a training program, Privately-Owned Vehicle Operations – Answering the Call Safely that can be used as part of your new-member orientation and/or ongoing training program. Visit shop.vfis.com.
We are pleased to announce that effective October 1, 2016 our agency ownership has changed. Ted Regnier has decided to officially retire and has sold his interest in Regnier & Associates, Inc. Regnier & Associates was founded in 1982 by Cynthia Regnier and has been the Texas Regional Director for VFIS since 1985. We have had much growth and success over the past 30 years and we sincerely thank YOU, our customers, for the trust you have placed in us and the opportunity you have given us to serve you.
The new agency owners are Barbara Marzean, Stephanie Dew and Glenn Hastings, all of whom have been with the firm for many years. Along with this new ownership, the agency name is now WinStar Insurance Group LLC.
Many of you are very familiar with Barbara Marzean. Barbara has been with Regnier for more than 30 years and has served as the President since 2005. She will continue to serve as the President of WinStar. Stephanie Dew has been with Regnier since 2010 and has served as the Director of Sales & Marketing. Steph will serve as VP of Sales & Marketing for WinStar. Glenn Hastings has been with Regnier for over 15 years as an outside Sales Associate for the Houston area. Glenn will serve as VP and will primarily serve the Houston area for WinStar.
With this change, there is no change in staff or the way we operate and we will continue to do business as “VFIS of Texas”. We are excited for the future and we want to thank all of our friends and customers for your continued loyalty and trust!
VFIS of Texas is here for you. This is evident by the more than $10 Million in Claims we pay out to our clients annually. When an accident occurs, you want to know you are in good hands. VFIS of Texas makes sure your claim is handled swiftly & properly so you can get back to doing what you do best. As you can see, your premiums are a valuable necessity and allow us to help you and your fellow departments to get back at full strength during a time of need.
2017 Emergency Responder Safety, Training & Wellness Grant - VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual Insurance Company are pleased to sponsor a need-based grant program for fire departments and non-profit EMS organizations in Texas. Grants will be awarded to reimburse departments for 1) 2017 individual member certification dues/fees, 2) Travel costs to attend training, and/or 3) Health/Wellness programs. Grants up to $5,000 will be awarded based on financial need and are intended to encourage all departments to participate in certification, training and health/wellness programs to prevent emergency responder deaths and injuries. Departments will need to apply for the grant, expend the funds and then send in copies of receipts and proof of training attendance in order to receive the grant funds. Grant application deadline is December 31, 2016.
Who is eligible:
•All-volunteer or mostly-volunteer fire departments and non-profit EMS organizations that serve apopulation of 100,000 or less and are legally organized in Texas.
What is eligible:
• Part I – 2017 annual individual certification or re-certification fees for SFFMA (NOT department dues), TCFP or DSHS.
• Part II – Student course materials and travel expenses (up to $150 per day per person) for training that is part of a certification program during calendar year 2017 (travel expenses include travel to/from, meals/tips, hotel/dorm).
• Part III – Cost for equipment (up to $2,500) and/or professionals to develop an in-house Health & Wellness Program.
How it works:
• Departments can apply for Part I, Part II, and/or Part III.
• Departments should apply for assistance first (completed grant application and W-9) by 12/31/16.
• Applications will be reviewed and notice will be sent to those awarded a grant by 1/31/17.
• Departments will be responsible for sending in paid receipts and course completion certificates by 12/1/17 in order to receive reimbursement.
THE DEADLINE TO APPLY HAS PASSED.
STAY TUNED FOR 2018 GRANT APPLICATION AROUND FALL 2017.
How to Apply:
VFIS of Texas
3420 Executive Center Dr, #301
Austin, TX 78731
Fax to: 512-448-9929
E-mail to: email@example.com
VFIS of Texas NEWS
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