The 'Braveheart' Approach to Firefighter Safety

Braveheart, the multi-Oscar award-winning movie from 1995, is an inspirational film on many levels. It is based on the true events of Scotland's William Wallace and his efforts to gain his nation's freedom from England's rule in the late 13th century...

Perhaps a pragmatic approach would be to appeal to each firefighter's sense of dedication and duty to remain as aggressive as always, but to temper their traditional approach by also appealing to their intelligence. If the ultimate firefighting application is being more deliberate in response to all emergencies, then "smart and aggressive" would be a good battle cry.

All of the above was the whole intent of William Wallace's efforts seven centuries ago. He rallied his fellow Scotsmen to fight for their freedom from England's rule (paradigm shifts and culture changes). He impressed his friends, and even foes alike, that thinking was just as an important weapon in war as the other weapons that were available. And finally, he knew the importance of leadership in ushering in the needed and perceived change.

All good lessons for the fire service don't you think? Now, is the American Fire Service up to the same tasks as modeled by Braveheart's William Wallace?

This article addresses Firefighter Life Safety Initiative #1: Define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety; incorporating leadership, management, supervision, accountability and personal responsibility.

DAVID PETERSON, a Contributing Editor, is a 28-year fire service veteran who serves as a lieutenant and training officer in Madison, WI, and as the training coordinator for the department's regional Level A Hazmat team. David founded the Wisconsin Association of Hazardous Materials Responders, Inc. and teaches, presents, and authors articles on a wide variety of fire and hazmat topics. David is also a National Fire Academy instructor of chemistry and a Master Instructor for the International Association of Fire Fighters HazMat and Terrorism training programs. To read David's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach David by e-mail at