Hitting Close to Home

By now, thanks to all of the efforts that National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has put in developing great statistical reports year after year, we in the fire service know that the majority of the fires and the fatalities occur in homes.Take a look...

That is where I believe that with our recent success in the residential building code and the requirement for installation of the residential fire sprinkler systems in all new homes, we will be taking even greater strides in further reducing our fire fatalities.

Installation of residential fire sprinkler system in all new homes is a long term engineering solution to address the fire problem in county. But then, what should be done right now to have a more immediate impact in addressing the shortcomings addressed in this NFPA report?

According to the 2008 November/December issue of the NFPA Journal, NFPA's General Manager, Percy Bugbee believed "that technology alone could not bring about a fire safe world."

In his speech, Bugbee emphasized on the importance of public education and stated:

"Fires, like epidemics of disease or crime, can be stamped out successfully only through the collective will and action of society as a whole. The failure of society to prevent fires has been due to the fact that up to now the average American citizen has not appreciated that nearly all fires are due to simple, easily understood acts of carelessness or neglect.

Once every man, woman, and child realizes and accepts in daily life the responsibility for simple fire prevention measures, death, injury, and destruction by fire will be substantially reduced. It is worth emphasizing that the failure of society to prevent fires is not due to any mysterious and unknown action of fire. There is hardly any field of scientific investigation where more work has been done than in the field of fire protection and fire prevention. The knowledge as to the causes of fires and how to prevent them and protect against them is available".

My friends, in case you didn't know, Percy Bugbee made that speech 63 years ago, back at the 1947 President's Conference on Fire Prevention.

He believed, and I strongly agree, that we must better educate our public about the dangers of fire, and inform them about the consequences of their decisions, and their own roles and responsibilities for their own personal safety. His words are just as true and applicable today, as it was back in 1947.

The focus of Truman's 1947 conference was to conduct a comprehensive assessment and identify implementable solutions to address the fire problem in America. More than 2,000 participants representing various national professional and civic organizations participated in that conference.

The intent was to have all of the major national and regional stakeholders involved, so that they could have their buy in into the strategies and then implement the recommendations.

The reason for me referencing the conference was not only because of their focus on public education. But also to mention their innovative approach in establishing national cooperative mechanisms with many non-fire national organizations, in a collaborative effort to promote life safety and community fire protection at the local levels.

I believe that we can and should do that now. We know where the fire problem is, at home. And we know that many of the fire fatalities are very young, very old, and African Americans. Then why don't we focus on these few specific targets, and through our public education efforts take strides to address the fire problem?

Why don't we establish a strong, sustained, and systematic organizational cooperation at the highest national levels with both the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)? That way we can work cooperatively with them at the various organizational levels, and provide their membership with systematic public education and fire and life safety information and even health and safety messages.

If we are serious about reducing fire fatalities statistics in those high risk groups, why don't we establish formal organizational relationship and alliance with both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and bring them onboard with all our public education efforts?

And along that same line, although not a high risk group, but considering the demographical changes in our country, maybe we can focus more on our Hispanic population, and make a sustained systematic effort to better educate them through the Spanish PSAs and other public education efforts also.