A Boston firefighter is 2.5 times more likely to die of cancer than the average Boston resident. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death for firefighters. Few will die in the line of duty, but 67% face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes.
Early prevention is key. With the proper training and equipment, firefighters can reduce their risk. The fire department needed a way to raise awareness of the epidemic among firefighters, in city hall, and the public at large.
While cancer is prevalent in the fire service, it is not openly discussed. In addition, many of the preventative measures that could save a firefighter’s life (like wearing and washing protective equipment) are scoffed at—especially by the older generations who saw soot-covered gear as a badge of honor.
We began by conducting research—speaking with longtime members of the fire service, as well as doctors who treat firefighters with cancer. Using these insights, we developed a video strategy that guided our creative development. We decided a single video could not accomplish all objectives. We produced two—one focused on raising awareness and the other on prevention. The result was a gut-wrenching tribute to fallen heroes from family and friends and words of advice from a cancer survivor.
Embryo invited family members to build a memorial to firefighters who passed from cancer. We filmed the construction and conducted interviews with more than 25 cancer patients, doctors, and BFD officials. The memorial that was built for the project still stands and has become a place of solace for family members who have lost firefighters to cancer. The memorial served as a key location in the subsequent video we produced on cancer prevention.