What are the Odds?

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...


The Charleston Sofa Super Store fire was an overnight tragedy. Yet we must never forget that it was the direct result of many years of accumulated neglect and disregard for the fire prevention and inspection programs.

We must learn that lesson with the hope of not repeating the same mistakes anywhere else in the future.

But then honestly, is Charleston the only jurisdiction in this country that systematically ignored and did not have a high priority for the fire prevention programs? Indeed not.

Fire prevention is about the fire that did not happen. Just like the story of the fish that got away, it is rather hard to prove its value.

Unfortunately though, our story and the fire code are written with blood and sacrifice. The tragic loss in Charleston attests that not only fire prevention is important to the safety of our public and community, it also has direct impact on the firefighters' safety.

Let's face it. The heart of the problem is that we do not truly recognize the importance of the fire prevention programs in protecting our own communities.

Why? Because, we still view the fire prevention programs as non-essential and in a support role function, and without any direct relevance to the firefighters' safety.

We don't view that the fire prevention programs do actually save our own firefighters' lives.

Yet, nine of our brothers in Charleston paid the ultimate price because their leadership displayed just such archaic views of fire prevention and eliminated their fire inspection and maintenance programs.

Philosopher George Santayana said "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."

When are we going to truly learn from our past mistakes and stop repeating them over and over in future?

Take a look around you my friends. We have cut too deep, and the public education and fire prevention programs around the country have taken the biggest hits and have been drastically reduced.

That being said because we have forgotten the past we are condemned to repeat it in future.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Then from all the historical fire loss lessons similar to Charleston's, why do we expect any different results next time around when we have virtually eliminated the public education and fire prevention programs?

What would have good 'ole Albert think of us?

We certainly don't view the tremendous value that fire prevention brings to the table in protecting our own firefighters as we should. Thus, as they say here in my gambling town of Las Vegas, we simply roll the dice on the fire prevention programs.

What we tend to downplay is the conceptual relationship between frequency and probability of an event versus the consequences and the final outcome.

The frequency and probability of having a fire like they had in Charleston might be small. But as we saw, the consequences of such fire is tragic.

Fire prevention programs assist us in lowering the probabilities of such events occurring, and drastically decrease the magnitude of the consequences.

Logically then, fire prevention programs must be viewed as an integral part and one of the most significant functions of all fire departments. And, it must be viewed as a much higher priority for the fire service.

It is time that we finally recognize that by cutting the fire prevention programs, not only do we roll the dice and risk the safety of our community, but also the lives of our own firefighters.

Fire prevention is just as much about the protection of our own firefighters as it is for the safety of our community.

Cutting the public education and fire prevention programs during the tough economic times is nothing more than rolling the dice on probabilities and gambling on the future outcome. The consequences could far outweigh the perceived immediate cost savings.

What are the odds? Well, take it from a local -- a heck of a lot higher than the probability of becoming a millionaire by hitting the mega jackpot in Las Vegas.