While Fire Prevention Week is great to bring awareness to the fire problem, the fire service should share the life and death lessons all year long.
Each year the fire service makes the most of a week long opportunity to reach families with fire safety messages. Since 1922, that opportunity has been called Fire Prevention Week (FPW). This year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has announced it's FPW campaign theme as "Prevent Home Fires", bringing the problem facing Americans to the forefront because more people die from fire in their homes than anywhere else.
Cooking, heating and electrical fires account for nearly half of all home fires. To intensify prevention efforts in these areas, checklists have been created by many fire safety educators over the years and now the NFPA has one on their website that will help bring young people into the act as well. Further information on FPW 2008 can be received at www.firepreventionweek.org. Another source for home hazard checklists can be found at www.checkitout.state.mn.us.
As in previous years, watch for your free NFPA Fire Prevention Week materials to assist you in conducting a successful campaign in your community. Please feel free to contact the many fire service associations in your area and beyond for any advice or support on your FPW activities, and be sure and schedule your events with adequate time for planning.
This year in Minnesota, a fire department somewhere in the state can expect to respond to a call once every two minutes, with a structure fire occurring every 1.2 hours. Some areas of the country are worse, some are better. These numbers alone demonstrate the dedication of today's fire service professional. However, as most of you know, this is but the tip of the iceberg.
Take into consideration the countless hours of maintenance, upkeep, compliance, mandatory training, annual certifications, professional development, and other meetings, and you are looking at a commitment second to no other volunteer or full-time organization. Yet with all of these responsibilities our nations firefighters proudly take on challenges of a proactive nature with the same type of devotion.
Since well before recorded time, insightful individuals have shared with others the lessons necessary to lead a safe and enjoyable life. The responsibility of each and every fire service member in public fire and life safety education is the cornerstone of our profession. With a noble goal of reducing property loss, injury, and death, our organizations demonstrate their values and concern for their neighbors by attacking fires before they happen. They accomplish this in the classroom, through the media, in homes and businesses, and at public gatherings.
There are numerous opportunities provided us throughout the year that make our job a little easier. From neighborhood block parties, to county fairs, anywhere the public gathers is a window of opportunity. The truth of the matter is that there is no event too small. In the prevention field, one must realize that we cannot comprehend the level of impact we are having. Each and every individual we instill a lesson within has the potential to be a carrier of that message, as well as the benefactor. Therefore our investment of a clear, concise, and consistent public fire and life safety message is never wasted, no matter what the diversity of the audience.
The many factors that go into presenting an effective safety lesson can be easily learned and with time and experience also can be very enjoyable. The next time you get that triumphant feeling after successfully combating a fire consider this, as you walk away from the structure you see the family all standing at their meeting place, and a youngster you don't even recognize breaks away from her mothers arms and runs to you, grasping your sooty leg and cries "we all escaped just like you taught us!"
Now this may feel like a triumph, and indeed lives were saved. But wouldn't it have been even sweeter to have that child and their family not have experienced a fire at all? Now that, my friends, is a true triumph! While this dramatic of an event may or may not happen to you, never doubt the potential or value of your proactive investment in your community. And always remember that the real reward to being a firefighter is in not having to roll the trucks because you invested your time in educating your neighbors.
Taking advantage of opportunities for training in public fire and life safety will help you to get the most bang for your buck as well as build your confidence in carrying out these responsibilities. There are many chances each year to get the training including the National Fire Academy, the state fire schools, and the many national fire service organization conferences.
So let's get started with National Fire Prevention Week, and carry the message on throughout the entire year.
DANIEL BERNARDY is chief instructor/owner of RESCUEPAX, a company that offers custom all terrain technical rescue training programs and serves as the training officer for the Inver Grove Heights, MN, Fire Department. A 21 year veteran of both the career and volunteer fire service, Daniel is the former Minnesota Deputy State Fire Marshal responsible for public fire and life safety education and juvenile firesetter intervention. He was honored as the Minnesota Firefighter of the Year in 1996, and is a recipient of the Congressional Fire Service Institute Award. Daniel has presented a webcast titled Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Strategies - What is My Role? on Firehouse TrainingLIVE and participated in The Assistance to Firefighters Grant 2008 Program - Part 2: Success Stories podcast on Radio@Firehouse.com. You can reach Daniel by e-mail at Info@rescuepax.com.