Let me suggest a course for us all to consider. We all must become more concerned with saving the lives of our firefighters every day of the week than training them for some Alfred Hitchcock-type of mythical terror scenario. I don't want to play down the fact that a lot of people out there really hate our guts, and want to do us harm. However, that fact is lodged within the nebulous world of possibilities.
The reality is that about every two and a half days someone amongst us is dying. Our people are dying in the here and now and it ain't weapons of mass destruction that are killing them. We know why they are dying, yet we keep our heads buried in the sand. Let us return some of the balance toward the operational forces in their daily battles as America's First Responders. There is a new battle to be fought, and it is a domestic battle against complacency and ignorance.
There will be those offended by what I have said. To these potential pilasters of the palace of the status quo, I say Tough Tortugas. We need more money for firefighter training, health and safety, and staffing. While the government is worrying about protecting containers in our shipping harbor, let them also worry about people like you and me who are protecting the Mrs. Smiths of the world, as my friend Alan Brunacini is so fond of saying.
Billy Goldfeder is my hero when it comes to kicking people in the kiester. I fell off of the spot I held next to him on the limb of controversy. I am sorry that I left you out there by yourself on the limb of butt-kicking commentary Billy old buddy. We all know that the time to act is now.
The first thing we can do is understand that being a dumb ass is something which lies within the skill set of each and every member of the fire service. Heaven knows that you have seen me show the brown flag now and again. We need to be training our people in such a way that they are ready for the reality of life every day. We need to limit the dumb-ass quotient.
The second thing is that we must all understand there is no "one best way" to do anything. Let us share what we know. The third thing we must do involves a dose of common sense. Do not place our people in dangerous places unnecessarily. Our fire service needs to get back to that critical old skill known as reading a building.
These are the things that you and I must work at every day of the week. While we could use a greater level of resource funding from the federal government, we do not need a mandate from Washington, DC to commit ourselves to training our selves and our people to live for tomorrow. We need to change the culture of death to a culture of life. I am not saying that we should stop honoring the people who die in the line of duty. It is right and proper to pay respect.
What I am saying that the celebration of death as a mark of being a tough guy or gal has to stop. I think that the picture of funeral cortege needs to be replaced by the picture of the father holding his son when he gets back from a tough fire, or the mother holding her child after a tough shift in the fire station.
We need to create a culture that recognizes and values the importance of life and the impact of realistic training on keeping people alive. In order to provide the resources for this type of training, we must also create a clamor for full funding of our federal fire programs. Oh yeah, we could use higher dollar numbers, but damn it, we must tell Congress to give us what they promised us when they wrote the legislation.
Stop cutting the FIRE BILL funding level! Put some serious money into the SAFER program! Fully fund the training of our fire service at the National Fire Academy, so that our future leaders can be trained. And by all means invite some knowledgeable upper-level fire officers into the world of homeland security.
Our fire world needs a greater voice within the world of DHS. This is a position strongly advocated by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and it is one with which I heartily agree. There I have said it and I am happy.
God bless Jack Peltier and Pat McGinley for being my friends.