We just wrapped up our first FDIC (Fire Department Instructors Conference), the largest fire and emergency services conference in North America, a conference we have been waiting years to be able to attend.
Of the thousands of visitors, and of all the stories with which we were entrusted, there is one gentleman that keeps returning to my mind.
He's a retired Chief with a round, pleasant face and a large moustache half covering his open, warm smile, grey as much from age as from his years in the fire service, I imagine. Now likely in his 60s, he has started a second career in fire with a volunteer department and he stopped by to discuss personal decontamination options for his crew.
He approached us for information - we didn't pull him from a crowd or tempt him with samples or stickers. He is proactive in support of firefighter health and wellness.
He looked me in the eye and said
"It's too late for me..."
SOOTSOAP's story began when I discovered the terrifying truth behind that smokey smell my husband could not physically wash off - the smell he was bringing home from work in his car, to our sheets, to me, and would someday be bringing home to our daughter. It became my full time job when I learned that cancer is the number one cause of death for firefighters and that an estimated 50% of those cases are preventable through proper decontamination. I was a marketer by trade - certainly not a soap maker - but I started a new path to help fill the void in an effort to keep my husband and our firefamily cleaner and safer.
But this is relatively new information - studies were just being released in 2017 and beyond as I was working through research and development - and I was avidly looking for it. We haven't known for long that the smell and soot that once served as a badge of honour is in fact a very efficient pathway for serious and deadly health issues.
"It's too late for me".
This Chief, like so many others, spent decades walking into fire, exposing himself to contaminates that he just didn't know to wash off. There was nothing that addressed these toxins or this need because we simply didn't know it was needed.
Just like with mental health, healthy eating habits and exercise, we can't focus on where we came from or old protocols or rituals - we need to focus on where we're going. All we can do is start where we are.
We know better. We have better. And we will continue to do better, because we know we have to. It's not too late for this Chief to take personal decontamination measures or to focus on his health, this man who keeps flashing in front of my eyes, working to keep his crew safe. And it's not too late for you.
START WHERE YOU ARE.