The Fire Service's 2008 Awakening

I have always believed that the fire service is the sleeping giant that is destined to wake up and play the highest role in our battles to better protect our citizens.

As the year comes to an end, I started looking at some of the major accomplishments in the fire service this year, especially in the fire prevention arena. I am proud to say that we have indeed taken great strides. I have always believed that the fire service is the sleeping giant that is destined to wake up some day and play the highest role in our battles to better protect our citizens and reduce the adverse economic impacts of fires to our communities across the land.

I am delighted to see that the sleeping giant is finally waking up. I can't wait for it to really get going after the morning cup of coffee. Just imagine what it can accomplish when it is up and running at peak performance.

In all my articles throughout the years, I have always strongly focused on fire prevention as the best strategy to address the fire problem in our country. It will reduce the adverse economic impacts of fire, decrease the total number of fire injuries and fatalities as well as provide for the highest level of firefighter safety, so that "Everyone Goes Home" to their loved ones at the end their shifts.

Thus, from this perspective, the two most significant fire service accomplishments of this year were the inaugural Vision 20/20: National Strategic Agenda for Fire Loss Prevention forum in Washington D.C. held April. And then, our tremendous success at the International Code Council (ICC) Hearings in Minneapolis, back in September.

At the ICC hearings, we were successful not only in the adoption of the residential fire sprinkler proposal, but also the adoption of 23 of the high-rise safety recommendations developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in their investigations into the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center tragedy.

These two accomplishments are the results of years of hard work by many of my most dedicated peers in the fire service and will undoubtedly have monumental impacts in better protecting our firefighters and citizens. These two accomplishments are very much interrelated, and the level of unprecedented fire service cooperation and coordination among the many major fire service organizations in bringing them together signifies the awakening of our gentle giant.

In 2007, after years of relentless work by my good friend, Fire Marshal Jim Crawford with Vancouver, WA, Fire Department, Vision 20/20 finally sprung to life when the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) - US Branch was awarded a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive national strategy for fire prevention. Vision 20/20's National Strategic Agenda for Fire Loss Prevention is a project with the goal of helping to bring together fire prevention efforts and focus everyone's efforts collectively to effectively address the fire problem in the United States.

In April, Vision 20/20 held a very productive two-day forum. Quite literally, this forum was a gathering of a "who's-who" in fire safety attending from across the country as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. There were more than 170 participants representing our nation's fire service and leaders of major national fire protection and safety organizations. The end result of this forum was the report titled "Vision 20/20 National Strategies for Fire Loss Prevention Final Report" that has formulated all their findings and the pertinent recommendations.

The five strategies and the national organizations to facilitate and lead these efforts are listed below:

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