If You Don’t Feel Well, Don’t Make It Your Farewell

Chantilly, Va. – The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) today kicked off an international campaign, If You Don’t Feel Well, Don’t Make It Your Farewell, to raise awareness throughout the fire and emergency service about the fatal risks of firefighters ignoring signs of a heart attack that can lead to a cardiac event.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 41% of firefighter deaths in 2018 were attributed to sudden cardiac death.

Fire Chief Gary Ludwig, IAFC president and chairman of the board, launched the initiative with a powerful video illustrating how ignoring the symptoms and signals our bodies send during cardiac incidents too often leads to death. The IAFC has developed the Cardiac Awareness Toolkit to assist fire service leaders in helping educate their departments and begin to change the culture of denial in the profession.

The toolkit contains many resources available for download:

  • Sample policies and strategy development tools
  • Research papers
  • Training and media tools

“Almost half of  all firefighter deaths each year are cardiac-related,” said Ludwig, fire chief of the Champaign (Illinois) Fire Department. “Many who have experienced but survived a cardiac incident have reported not feeling right, not feeling well, or that something is wrong.  The best way to change the culture of ignoring warning signs that are not always chest tightness and shortness of breath is through education and awareness.

“If you’re a first responder and your body is signaling to you a feeling that you have never experienced before with extreme fatigue and other symptoms, you need to act and those around you need to act,” said Ludwig, who has worked in the fire and emergency service for more than 42 years. “If a firefighter tells you ‘something is wrong’ or ‘I don’t feel right’ or any similar statement, do not tell them to go home or lay down in the bunk hall. Their body is sending them a signal that something could be seriously wrong.”

The IAFC thanks founding partner AMR and supporting partner PulsePoint for making this initiative possible. To learn more, visit IAFC.org/dontfeelwell.

About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world’s leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders.