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Helmets and Head Protection for Emergency Responders Operating at Roadway Incidents: New Information and Resources

For over a decade, the Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI), a committee of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association (CVVFA), has advocated for the development of a purpose-designed helmet for roadway incident response. ERSI welcomes renewed interest on this important topic and is working to drive the conversation forward. Here is some of the latest information on different aspects of this issue. If you have insight or information to contribute to the conversation on head protection and helmets for roadway incident response, please contact us.

New Statistics on Helmet Usage
In 2020, ERSI , conducted a nationwide survey of over 899 fire service and EMS personnel to gather their opinions regarding helmet use at roadway incidents. Despite over 90% of respondents agreeing that the overall life safety hazard of roadway incidents was about the same to much more dangerous than a structure fire, only 46% reported that helmets are always or almost always worn at roadway incidents. Only 32% of respondents reported always or almost always fastening the chin strap on their helmet when working a roadway incident, despite an 84% compliance rate for wearing high visibility apparel. The #1 reason respondents listed for why not to wear a helmet at a roadway incident was "personnel from other response units do not wear helmets." Clearly, there is still a lot of work to do to address the reasons why many emergency services personnel do not wear their helmets consistently and correctly at roadway incidents.

The full report on this survey, including additional detail about reasons why helmets are not worn and the design issues emergency responders identified with existing helmet choices, is available here.

New Research
On January 11, 2020, Lt. Eric Hill (Lubbock Fire Rescue) and Officer Nicholas Reina (Lubbock Police Department) were killed when they were struck by a civilian vehicle while working an incident on the roadway. Firefighter Matt Dawson was severely injured. In the wake of this terrible tragedy, Lt. Brady Robinette resolved to take a closer look at how different types of available helmets performed when subjected to the types of forces that occur when an emergency responder is struck at a roadway incident. As a result of his initial research, Lubbock Fire Rescue purchased a different type of helmet to be used at their roadway responses when fire suppression is not necessary. ERSI commends Lt. Brady Robinette of Lubbock Fire Rescue on his initiative to re-examine which type of helmet best protects first responders when they work roadway incidents.

Learn more about Lt. Robinette's work:
  • Read his article "Roadway Incident Operations: What is the Right Helmet for the Job?" in the Fire Engineering October 2020 issue
  • Watch this local news story on new helmets for Lubbock Fire Rescue's roadway responses
ERSI extends our heartfelt condolences to the families of Lt. Hill and Officer Reyna, their departments, and the Lubbock community. We send our best wishes to Firefighter Dawson for his continued recovery.

New Online Training Module
Until a helmet specifically designed for roadway incident response becomes widely available, it is up to individual fire departments to evaluate available helmets and select one(s) they feel will best protect their personnel. A new Responder Safety Learning Network module, "Helmets and Head Protection for Roadway Incidents" will be available in 2021. This module will include the results of Lt. Robinette's research and guidance on the factors to consider when selecting a helmet for emergency responses on the roadway. To be notified when this module launches, register on RSLN.org today. All current RSLN registered users will automatically receive the launch notification email.

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