I read the article titled "Families of "Charleston 9" Reach Partial Settlement" posted on the Firehouse.com, and the memory of that tragedy got my blood boiling again. What a shame! Nine firefighters died in that disaster, and now three years later and in these tough economic times, their families are settling for mere "chump change."
Comparing to some of the lucrative settlements that you read about in the papers around the country, fact of the matter is that unfortunately my friends, it seems that the firefighters' lives are not viewed too high. I don't put a price on lives, and in my mind no amount of money would bring our lost brothers in Charleston back to their loved ones.
But as you know, outside of our own fire service circle which is more focused on the fire and safety of community, for the rest of the business world, it all goes down to the basics, to the very root, money.
Everything, including human lives, has a price tag. And decisions are in an essence boil down to a cost/benefit analysis. Simply, what benefits are delivered for what cost.
With the economic challenges that our country has been struggling with for the past few years, it is even more evident that the cost of providing for the safety of our public and our firefighters, is not at the top of the priority list for many municipalities throughout the country.
Take a quick look all around and you see all these brown-outs, fire station closures, and firefighter layoffs that are impacting most of the fire departments across the country. You have to wonder how our public would be better served and protected in the future? And, what about the safety of our firefighters?
I truly can understand economic struggles, and as a result the tough organizational decisions that our elected officials and decision-makers have to make to survive and make the ends meet. It is not easy by any means. But then, if done right and with full knowledge of the consequences and impacts of such decisions, it is easier to justify the wisdom and much more palatable to digest.
Look at it this way, in our own household, we make budgetary decisions and have a priorities expenditure list. And when it comes to make a decision to spend money, food and shelter come way before entertainment and leisure.And if or when one of the breadwinners (if not the sole one) of the household lose their income, then although health insurance is of the highest importance for all families, but more than likely gradually and yet unwillingly, they would decide to put the food on the table for their kids, rather then keep their health insurance. Not that it’s right, but quite understandable.
Across the country, too many families are faced with making just such decisions, despite knowing full well the consequences of not having the insurance. Hoping that nothing happens to them and they won't get sick.
The same also applies with their automobile insurance. They just take a chance and roll the dice. It is not right, but then there are plenty of uninsured motorists around.
Well, the same basic economic principles apply to our jurisdictions during these tough economic times.
Just like the families impacted, where illness and the need for health insurance is a secondary priority and they try not to get sick, or they drive carefully not to get into an accident, jurisdictions take a leap of faith too and roll the dice, believing the probabilities of catastrophic fires and emergencies are minuscule.
So as you can see all across the country, most municipalities have decided to cut the fire departments' budget.
Not that I agree, but at least their decisions could be better understood, if the elected officials and policy-makers were fully aware of the consequences of their decisions.
In my mind, such cuts would undoubtedly have a drastic impact not only on their communities' fire protection and life safety, but also on the safety of their firefighters.