Let me now point out some of the great things that the fire service in Delaware did this summer. Each year, we in the fire service are reminded that we should take time to meet with our members of Congress when they are home from Washington, DC for their summer break. Some of us do this and some of us do not. Let me share a couple of vignettes from one place where they do it right.
Over the years I have heard a number of U.S. Senators from the Great State of Delaware speak to the fact that in their state there are three political parties. There are the Democrats, the Republicans, and the Fire Service. One of the benefits of being a compact state with only three counties is that there are not a lot of places for practicing politicians to hide when they are home.
President Ray Stevens of the Delaware Volunteer Fireman's Association (DVFA) led a delegation to Washington, DC in early August. That group met with one of their Senators, Thomas Carper and members of his staff. Knowing the gentlemen from Delaware as well as I do, I am certain that the concerns of the fire service were clearly brought to the fore for Senator Carper's edification.
Far too often we speak of what should be done to lay our concerns at the feet of government. It should be noted that in Delaware examples of how to accomplish this type of political interaction rise to the level of textbook models. They are true professionals in the arena of fire service advocacy.
To this end on Monday August 15, the DVFA had their annual leadership meeting with Senator Joseph Biden, a really senior member of our U.S. Senate. According to my buddy Jim Cubbage, this meeting has been an annual event for nearly 20 years.
Senator Biden spoke on federal fire issues and then held a question and answer session with the group that lasted for nearly an hour. I have heard him speak on numerous occasions and I can state with certainty that he loves the fire service. A unique part of this meeting is the ice cream social that follows. During the social, Senator Biden dishes up the ice cream to all in attendance. Sometimes it takes him nearly an hour to make sure that everyone gets their fair share.
Let us now travel north from Delaware for about an hour. It was a summer of many challenges for my friend Dr. Robert S. Fleming of West Chester, Pennsylvania. In addition to his busy faculty assignments at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, he journeyed out to Las Vegas to assume his new role as Chairman of the Certified Fire Protection Specialist organization. He also spent some time with us in Denver.
Dr. Bob was also fortunate in being able to devote some of his precious time to publicizing an important fire company function for his local volunteer fire department. He was able to tell us about the hard work performed by Battalion Chief Neil Vaughn of the Malvern Fire Company. He honchoed their annual Fire Safety Summer Camp. This camp provides a critical educational component for the young people in the area.
They were provided with a number of critical life-safety skills and exposed to a number of valuable learning experiences. Among other things they learned:
- How to use fire extinguishers
- How to perform CPR and basic first aid
- How to make your home more fire safe
- How fires start and how to prevent them
The young people were also exposed to a number of informative sessions to show them how the fire service works:
- Firefighting/rescue demonstrations
- Vehicle extrication
- Car fires
The fire company sponsored a number of field trips in the region to familiarize the camp participants with several important emergency operating facilities in the region. The camp participants visited:
- Chester County 9-1-1 Center
- Paoli Memorial Hospital Emergency Department
- West Chester Fire Training School
The program ended with a simulated firefighter combat challenge (no fire involved), a graduation ceremony for the young camp attendees, and a BBQ luncheon for one and all. In this era of declining citizen participation in the volunteer fire service, it is encouraging to see a group like the Malvern Fire Company step up to the plate to take a swing at solving the recruiting and retention problems in a futuristic way.