We must be unified in our stance and focus all our efforts on reviving the AFG program.
My past few articles have been focused extensively on the issues of public education and advocacy. Educating the public and our elected officials about the menace of fire has been on the top of our "to do list" going back even further than the 1947 President Truman's Conference on Fire Prevention.
The well-known 1973 America Burning Report aimed at educating our public and our decision-makers and explained their goal as "We have become accustomed to public indifference to the fire problem. But we hold the hope that this attitude can be changed. It is our wish that this report will provide a turning point, by reaching - if only indirectly the conscience of millions of Americans."
But then societal change does not come easy, and it is a long term effort. Time, and even more importantly, systematic, sustained educational effort is needed to bring about the cultural change. And of course that means resources and funding; lack of which contributed to our failure in accomplishing the goals laid out in the 1973 America Burning Report.
Fourteen years later, the 1987 America Burning Revisited report stated "Failing to convince elected officials of the seriousness of the fire death, injury and loss statistics was considered the most serious problem because it is the path to resolving many other problems."
Then 13 years later, back in 2000, the America Burning Recommissioned Report stated "The lack of substantial funding to implement America Burning speaks volumes about the low priority that all segments of government - federal, state and local - assign the fire hazard compared to other areas of public safety."
Think about it. There must be some strong merits to this idea of educating the public and our elected officials, and increasing our advocacy at all levels of government. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been repeated time after time for the past few decades in all these reports prepared by the fire service leaders of the past, would it?
I guess it must be easier said than done, considering that after decades, we still have not conquered that public indifference. The elected officials are still not "convinced" about the seriousness of fire problem.
And if you ask yourself why, you might come to the same conclusion as I. The problem is that other than an exceptional few, most of us don't really believe in the solutions ourselves. Or, even if we do, we are not truly committed to it.
In the book The Leadership Challenge, it is stated "There's absolutely no way that you can convince others, over the long term, to share a dream if you're not convinced of it yourself. You must be sincere in your own belief." Are you? Simply stated, most of us don't "walk the talk," as we should.
Obviously knowing the problem and the reasons why we have not effectively addressed it is of utmost importance. But then, that is only a part of the solution. Even more important than the why, is the how. How can we address the problem? What do we need to do? These are the key questions to be answered. To me, answering the how; is truly essential in providing us ways to address the problem.
That being said, I believe that it is quite valuable to share the wisdom and experiences of those fire service leaders who have focused on how to address the problem. Leaders who not only have the vision, but throughout their fire service career, have also displayed their strong commitment to the advocacy and educating the public and the elected officials.
Two such leaders are my friends, Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Robert Doke and retired Needham, MA, Fire Chief Bob DiPoli, who is a former President of the International Fire Chiefs Association. Both contributed extensively in writing this joint article that showcases their successful advocacy and lobbying efforts in educating their states' top elected officials.