It's Not Only 'We Can,' but 'We Must'

All major corporations and organizations are responsible for their bottom-line and have some sort of accountability mechanisms and clear performance measures, so then why shouldn't we?

Look at it this way, even though the fire service certainly carries a lot of political weight; its nothing compared to the lobbying muscles of the big three automakers in Detroit and the United Auto Workers union (UAW). And you just saw a few weeks back, how they were sent back a couple of times to get their act together and come up with a solid game plan. And even after a few weeks of getting grilled by the Congressional Committee, they finally received a fraction of what they were asking for.

Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". My friends, spend the time and take a quick glance at a few of the historic national reports produced by some of our country's brightest and most dedicated fire service leaders of the past; such as the 1947 Fire Prevention Conference, the 1973 America Burning Report, the 1987 America Burning Revisited, and the 2002 America at Risk report. And it would be quite evident that we have mostly ignored the great recommendations in those reports, and we have kept on doing the same thing over and over again for the past few decades. Logic then dictates that we should not expect a different result, doesn't it?

I used all of these quotations from Einstein in this article to prove a point, that one doesn't necessarily have to be as smart as Einstein, to ask us what results we have to show for the $4 billion fire grants that we have received since 2001. What are we going to say when asked, why these billions of dollars have not had a small dent on reducing our country's annual fire fatalities and our total fire property loss? What tangible results do we have to show for those billions that we have received?

In my article titled "Impetus for Change" published back in January 2007, I indicated that in all other fields, many of the federal grants provide means for the most fundamental and essential improvements at the local level. I suggested that we can learn from some of those successful examples, and that the fire grants could also serve as an impetus for change in addressing the fire problem in our country. I mentioned that this wasn't my idea at all, and that the concept of Fire Loss Management Plan that was first explained in the 1973 America Burning report:

"The Commission recommends that the proposed United States Fire Administration provide grants to local fire jurisdictions for developing master plans for fire protection. Further, the proposed U.S. Fire Administration should provide technical advice and qualified personnel to local fire jurisdictions to help them develop master plans."

I ask you my friends, what better way for the federal government to be the impetus for change at the local level, than by working toward the development of the fire loss management plans at all national, state and local levels? To me, it is amazing that our own history in the fire service provides us with such a wealth of knowledge and comprehensive solutions that even after all these decades, we still can and must utilize to address our country's current fire problem.

Back in 1973, the Commission was tasked to identify "how should responsibilities for reducing fire losses be distributed among Federal, State and local governments?" And in their America Burning report, they believed that the "Fire loss Management Plan" could be an answer to our country's fire problem. It seems that back in 1973, they had the vision, but not the means to implement those positive changes. The important question to be answered is, now that we have some means in the form of fire grants, do we have the vision and the will to be the impetus for change?

Be More Proactive
There are those who believe that Ben Franklin's old saying that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is passe, but then the wisdom of those centuries old words were reaffirmed in the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) report titled "Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves" submitted to the Congress of the United States on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) and it stated:

"This study shows that money spent on reducing the risk of natural hazards is a sound investment. On average, a dollar spent by FEMA on hazard mitigation (actions to reduce disaster losses) provides the nation about $4 in future benefits".

Others are recognizing the importance of preventive measures. And that same proactive focus was also evident in the "Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program: Assessing Performance" report where the Panel stated: