On the evening of April 1, after two very productive days of intense brainstorming and in-depth discussions, the curtain finally came down on the first act of the Vision 20/20's National Strategic Agenda for Fire Loss Prevention. Quite literally, this forum was a gathering of a "who's-who" of fire safety attending from across the country and the UK and Australia. There were more than 170 participants representing our nation's fire service, and leaders of major national fire protection and safety organizations.
"This project is unprecedented in scope and depth. We have assembled an incredible array of experts from a diversity of fields to help craft a national plan to reduce the loss of life and property from fire. Through our collective efforts we will develop strategies that will save lives, now and for the future", said Jim Crawford, fire marshal for the city of Vancouver, WA, and the Vision 20/20 project manager.
Vision 20/20 was conceived last year, when the Institute 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.
A noble cause indeed. But, as you all know well, "this isn't our first dance", and we have been down this road on many occasions before. The 1947 President's Conference on Fire Prevention, the 1973 America Burning report, the 1987 America Burning Revisited report, and finally the 2000 America Burning Recommissioned (America at Risk) report, were all focused on the very same issue. So what's different about the Vision 20/20 Plan? Vision 20/20's website answers it as such:
- This project involves a large number of participants representing all areas of fire prevention as well as other advocates and stakeholders to the plan and its recommended outcomes.
- This project is committed to action, with a few strategic recommendations being converted to a national plan that stakeholders will be asked to support with documentation of specific actions and benchmarks instead of a long list of recommended practices that everyone agrees are important (but then never get completed).
- This project will not create recommendations in a vacuum. Other existing efforts that have identified significant progress toward achieving prevention goals will be taken into account to avoid competing efforts.
- A long term monitoring mechanism will provide regular reports on the progress of the strategic initiatives that arise out of Vision 20/20.
If "commitment to action" is the litmus test; then the fact that despite many challenges Vision 20/20 was able to pull such a high caliber team together, and have such a productive forum, in itself is a solid step and a major accomplishment. This forum was a significant step in the right direction. It is important to emphasis though that this was only the first step in beginning the journey, and not the final step. There are still many more steps yet to be taken.
It is of utmost importance to show appreciation when it is due; and I for one am amazed and very grateful for the hard work and long hours that Peg Carson with Carson Associates, and Bill Kehoe with the IFE - US had spent on bringing this "first act" to be played on the national stage. Without their admirable commitment to the cause, this indeed would not have been possible.
Reviewing the reports from the previous national conferences mentioned above, one can clearly identify a common theme for increasing efforts in fire prevention is always emphasized as a key component to the fire safety problem in the United States.