Why is understanding all of this so important?
Think about our own government and the frustrations of our country and the result of the recent elections. Many people feel that those in Washington are out of touch, and do not understand nor comprehend the problems of those they serve; thus, the end result was -- they were voted out! Still today they continue to talk, we continue to ignore and become increasingly frustrated, and we place no value on what they have to say.
Could we be viewed in the same light by the citizens we serve? A governmental body who sits in a building all day playing checkers, collecting a paycheck for sleeping, and who is giving a single mom who is working two-three jobs a pamphlet to read and telling her she needs to purchase a fire extinguisher when she can't even afford her rent? Or telling a senior citizen on fixed income that using her gas stove to heat her home is unsafe? Do we have a relationship with those we protect, and more important, those most at risk, that is at such a level that they feel we understand their community, their problems and their issues, thus receptive to our messages? That we are not just another governmental body who is dictating to them what they should and should not do? A governmental body they pay for yet receive no services from unless they suffer a tragedy?
After all who are you more likely to take advice from? A friend or a stranger?
This is an important aspect in fire prevention we overlook - relationships with those we serve. We continue to approach fire prevention, and many times fire services in general, in the same traditional fashion and continue to wonder why, with all the technology and advancements we have in our country, we remain a leader in fires and fire deaths? Why the youngest and oldest in our country, those most vulnerable and in need of our protection, make up the majority of those dying in an event we have sworn to protect them from? Why do we continue to be a nation who continues to put its resources on the reactive side of fire protection, and continue to throw firefighters at preventable problems? Why are we a nation of firefighters who are forced, at every budget, to fight tooth and nail for the tools and resources we need to do our job and go home safe?
How can you start now to get involved with those you serve and those most at risk to develop those relationships in order to effect change? Think outside the box? Who are your stake holders? Who else may be active, or would like to be active, in your community? What resources are out there that the fire department can develop a partnership with to facilitate solutions; everything from free smoke detectors to the generation of funds to assist those in need survive and minimize risk -- like assisting with utility bills for senior citizens so they stop taking unsafe measures to warm-cool their homes.
Traditional fire service roles? Absolutely not! But, as stated, maintaining the traditional role is why we are in this mess in the first place in terms of fire occurrences and fire deaths; and also why fire department budgets have been devastated with the economy. What our society values has dramatically changed and we have not. As a fire service we need to be the solutions to our community's problems as best we can; our society wants problem solvers and governmental services who understand their needs.
So how do you accomplish this type of relationship?
Are there any planned community events coming up? Check with the local churches and community centers to find out if any neighborhood programs are scheduled in the coming months. Check with your city or county youth and senior citizen services to see if any events are on the calendar that you can get involved with. How about neighborhood watch meetings or home owner association gatherings?