A Safer Department Means a Safer Community: Copper Mountain Fire

One of the best ways to reduce injuries and deaths to firefighters reporting to incidents is to appoint a well-prepared, proactive Incident Safety Officer (ISO) to a fire department. The only thing better than having one certified ISO on site at all times is having your entire fire department certified.

That’s exactly what the Copper Mountain Fire Department (CMFD) did. All of the district’s 17 firefighters – from the Chief to each of the volunteers – read the book Fire Department Incident Safety Officer 2nd Edition at their own pace before taking the ISO certification exam as a group. All of the district’s firefighters passed the exam, becoming the first and only department in the country to achieve universal Incident Safety Officer Certification.

The CMFD took advantage of the Pool’s Safety Grant Program and was reimbursed for 50 percent of the ISO training books. This program is an invaluable resource for supplementing districts’ budgets, reimbursing them for the purchase of goods or services deemed to prevent covered losses and promote safety awareness.

The book primes aspiring and current Safety Officers to aggressively pursue the operation of a highly efficient safety program and incorporates topics focused on developing and improving existing safety programs. The training provides fundamental coverage of job functions for successful handling of incidents involving hazardous materials, rescue, wildland fire, and more. It includes explanations of the critical skills required to be a proficient Safety Officer, covering the processes of reading smoke, anticipating risk, predicting building collapse, and improving firefighter rehabilitation.

“Having our entire department certified will help our on-scene safety profile while reducing injuries and insurance claims,” said Joe Fava, an engineer with the CMFD. “Having someone on every shift, at each station, and at any time of the day or night who has this certification is extremely valuable in promoting the safest work environment possible,” he said.

“Because we’re so small, it puts a strain on the entire department when there’s an injury that requires a firefighter to miss time from work,” said Fava. “No matter whether someone is a first responder to the scene of an accident or a fire or simply mopping the station floor, we want the kind of program that trains our firefighters to look at every situation with a constant eye toward safety.”

Fava says that since completing their certification, everybody in the department feels empowered to speak up if they notice something that could potentially cause an injury.

“Everyone is now more watchful of one another and better equipped to react if an injury does occur. It’s comforting knowing that you’ve got 17 guys who are all watching each others’ backs,” said Fava.

While the Copper Mountain Fire Department is proud to be the only fire department in the country with top-to-bottom ISO certification, the group is going one step further and is planning for all of their employees to achieve Health and Safety Officer (HSO) Certification in the spring. Both the ISO and HSO certifications are administered by the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA).

The FDSOA was established as a non-profit association in 1989. Its mission is to promote safety standards and practices in the fire, rescue, and emergency services community. The Association is dedicated to the issues that affect Safety Officers’ critical roles in protecting and promoting the safety and health responsibilities that exist in their departments, their communities, and for themselves as individuals.

Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District provides water, sewer, fire, and television as its core services. Today, the Copper Mountain Fire Department (CMFD) has 14 paid personnel and three volunteers. Together, they provide fire and advanced emergency medical services to the residents and guests of Copper Mountain Resort. The CMFD also responds to hazmat, wildland fires, ice rescue, swift water rescue, highway (MVA), and rope rescue calls within their jurisdiction and provides coverage to an area outside the premises covering 78 square miles of largely undeveloped forest including the I-70 corridor west to the top of Vail Pass and east to Officer’s Gulch, as well as Highway 91 south of the resort to the top of Freemont Pass. The Copper Mountain Fire Department also works closely with Leadville, Vail, Lake Dillon, and Red White & Blue Fire Districts to assist in mutual aid.

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