A Close Call for Us, A Direct Hit for Others

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Firehouse Expo, it's hard to not look back to the wonderful past. Firehouse Expo brings back lots of great memories, great times and excellent learning opportunities from each other and the outstanding instructors...


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As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Firehouse Expo, it's hard to not look back to the wonderful past. Firehouse Expo brings back lots of great memories, great times and excellent learning opportunities from each other and the outstanding instructors from the first Firehouse Expo through today. While we remember Expo's history, I want to take some editorial privilege to look ahead. This month's column is not as much related to firefighter deaths and injuries as it is to the deaths and injuries of civilians that we cause on the roads when we are responding. As we celebrate 25 years, we look back, but we also must look forward.

When the tones go off, we are expected to become very focused on the mission, be it out of staffed fire stations whose members head to the rigs to turn out or unstaffed stations whose members jump in their cars and respond to the firehouse or to the emergency scene. The purpose of this month's column is for us to think hard about the time between you being alerted and you arriving on the scene of the fire or other emergency. What's the purpose of all that? You are responding to help people with a problem. Those who called us needed us five minutes ago, and we want to help them as fast as possible.

The reason you joined the fire department is to help people with a problem, but keep in mind that while the goal is to help those with a problem, it is also our goal to not make it worse or become a part of the problem. And that's the problem. Sometimes we do make the problem worse or cause new problems. Sometimes that isn't avoidable, but most times it is.

As we celebrate 25 years of Firehouse Expo, we can also look back at some horrific incidents. We can think about what habits we have changed in that time -- and which ones we have not. Our "habits" of responding quickly and passing through red lights and stops signs are usually for the good of those we are trying to help. I say usually because there is an element of folks who are allowed to drive emergency vehicles who are not driving for the good of those who need our help. In some cases, we have members of our service driving as fast as possible in order to try and "beat" other companies in. Nice. Let's drive a publicly owned (or paid for by the public, because they are all paid for by the public) fire apparatus as fast as possible with little regard for others so we can beat another company in. This kind of behavior is the stuff that prosecutors and lawyers drool over.

Now let's discuss intentional actions by firefighters. Intentional actions? Intentional is in the eye of the beholder (or judge or jury). While we know of no firefighter who has intentionally tried to hurt anyone, it can also be said that if firefighters driving apparatus did not stop at red lights or stop signs, that they did intentionally blow intersections. Absolutely. After all, if it was a member of your family that was struck by an apparatus that blew a controlled intersection, what would you want done? Easy answer. Tough situation.

Before we go any further, here is the fair solution:

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