Each decade seems to have had a target group, In the 1970s-1980s it was Hazardous Materials, 1980s-1990s Confined Space Rescue took the for front, 1990s-2000s, Technical Rescue surfaced and ever since the tragedies that took place on 9/11, Terrorism and the preparedness for it has joined the ranks of the fire service.
Unfortunately much of the responses we train for fall under the category of, "High Risk - Low Frequency"
Because of this our focus on a daily basis tends to drift from the "High Risk" component to the "Low Frequency" side when budgets are tight and municipalities large and small are trying to stretch an already choked pocketbook.
The demands placed on any department when an incident such as the one in Minneapolis takes place should once again wake us to that fact that yes it can happen to us and when it does we will be relying on these specialized resources to carry us through the tough times.
One of my company officers early in my career had a saying that seems to fit the fire service as much today as it did 20 years ago. "We are paper cowboys" his meaning behind this statement referred to the fact that many of leaders at the time were more focused on having SOPs and SOGs and being able to show them off.
What we have at times neglected, is the fact that no matter how good we look on paper if we do not practice our trade out in the field, we will not be up for the challenge when it arises.
By continuing to grow and refine our systems and skills, the fire/rescue service will be much more prepared when it happens to us, than if we sit back and relax until the day when it happens.
Keep your thoughts and prayers with the people and emergency responders of Minneapolis as they work through this disaster. While at the same time look within your selves and make sure your department and community are as prepared as possible for when it happens in your backyard.
Bob Duemmel is a captain with the City of Rochester, NY, Fire Department. He is currently assigned as the commander of the Special Operations Unit. Prior to this he was assigned to the departments Heavy Rescue Company. He has over 22 years with Rochester Fire Department as well as having served as a Crash Rescue Specialist in the U.S. Air Force. He has an Associate's Degree in Fire Protection Technology from Corning Community College, Corning NY. He is a New York State and Nationally certified Fire Instructor specializing in technical rescue. He is a principle and lead instructor with Tech Rescue Corporation, an international technical rescue training and consulting company.