The United States Congress created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to lead a nationwide effort to honor the memories of all U.S. firefighters who died in the line-of-duty and to provide support to their loved ones. As part of this mission, each October the Foundation hosts the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, the official national tribute, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The survivors of those being honored meet others who have walked this path a little longer and understand their grief in a way many may not. Through activities offered during the weekend they will find reassurance that their loved ones will not be forgotten and they have a place to find comfort.
Beyond the Memorial Weekend, the NFFF helps families with similar experiences and interests find each other through the Survivors Network. They provide college scholarships for spouses, partners and children and step children. They coordinate conferences where survivors can participate in workshops for family members and coworkers.
Recognizing that children need and deserve special attention, the NFFF introduced the Hal Bruno Camp for Children of Fallen Firefighters in partnership with Comfort Zone Camp. This free, weekend bereavement camp for children between the ages of 7 and 17 allows them to share their stories, learn skills to manage their loss and have time to reflect and remember their parent in a positive, fun and nurturing environment. The camp was named to honor the late Hal Bruno, Chairman Emeritus of the NFFF Board of Directors.
In addition to helping the families, the NFFF has resources to assist fire department leadership in managing this tragedy. The Local Assistance State Team (LAST) program is a collaborative effort between the NFFF and the Department of Justice to ensure that survivors of firefighters who died in the line-of-duty receive Public Safety Officer’s Benefits.
Over the years, the NFFF has realized that the best way to honor the fallen and support their families is to work with all branches of the fire service to reduce line-of-duty deaths and injuries.
In 2004, the first Firefighter Life Safety Summit was held in Tampa, Florida to address a need to reduce the number of preventable line-of-duty deaths. More than 200 fire service and industry leaders worked together to develop the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives (FLSI). In 2014, the NFFF convened TAMPA2 to assess, refine and ratify the 16 FLSIs. Important questions were raised and new approaches for the fire service suggested.
Out of those initiatives, the NFFF created Everyone Goes Home®. This program provides free resources, materials and training opportunities to our nation’s firefighters that underscore accepting responsibility for our health and safety. Through programs like Everyone Goes Home®, Courage to be Safe®, or Leadership, Accountability, Culture and Knowledge (LACK) training for department officers, firefighters learn valuable skills that will make the fire service a safer place.
The Foundation also advocates for improved safety standards and equipment, not only within the fire service but in our communities. Many jurisdictions throughout the country are considering requirements for sprinklers in new home construction. The NFFF is working diligently to educate law makers on the critical importance of these measures for the safety of their citizens, including the firefighters who serve them.
In addition, the Foundation regularly sponsors meetings and summits to address evolving needs of the fire service community such as cancer prevention and behavioral health issues. They also have provided funding for research that examines coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes prevention.
Unfortunately, there will always be incidents that are beyond our control and firefighters will die even when they have done everything right. With this in mind, the NFFF will continue to work tirelessly to support the loved ones and provide training and education to help reduce the number of losses.
For more information, go to www.firehero.org