Global Lessons: Bringing Fire Prevention Home

While residential fires continue to be our biggest problem in the U.S., fires in public buildings, notably assembly occupancies, while occurring less frequently cause the largest loss of life and property. Recently a fire in a Bangladesh factory killed...

If it is predictable then it is preventable and as a fire service we can no longer turn a blind eye to the copious amounts of information and education available on fire prevention and valuable lessons learned from each and every fire. Individual departments cannot control global fire prevention but they can take home the lessons learned in Bangladesh and Brazil, compare and contrast them to fires in the US, and overlay them to their jurisdiction. Are there dangers of fires like these occurring in the community you protect and if so, with all the information and knowledge out there on the cause of these fires and loss of life, are you doing everything you can to prevent that from happening? If you are not, and should a fire in fact occur and lives are lost for the same reasons and the same fashion as fires globally have taught us, are you culpable in that loss as members of a profession sworn to protect lives and property from fire?

While we need to continue to study fire and lessons learned from the operational side, it is time that we also acknowledge and make study of the centuries of data and lessons learned on the prevention side and develop strategies and tactics to address them as well. Operationally we can only respond so fast to these fires that most of the time have flashed over before we get on scene thus limiting any ability to safely operate and save lives and property. Like any enemy fire has progressed and we have to become smarter to beat it and that is quickly being limited to getting ahead of it before the first spark flies.

Right now outside your station doors is possibly the next Station or Brazil nightclub fire in the making. We now know what is most likely going to cause it and what will lead to its spread and body count. What is your department doing with this knowledge and should that fire occur could you be able to look the survivors and family members in the eye and honestly say you did all you could do to save the victims?

The constant blind eye turned towards prevention and the lessons learned as an overall fire service responsibility in its application is costing the lives of those we protect needlessly, and one day very soon we will be called to answer for it; if not legally then definitely morally and ethically, and certainly in the courts of public opinion.

In this day of globalization it's time to learn and take these global lessons clearly provided and apply them locally to each and every community, and most importantly to those who are depending on you to keep them and their loved ones safe tonight.

DANIEL BYRNE, a Contributing Editor, is a firefighter/paramedic, with the Burton Fire District in Burton, SC. A 20-year veteran of the emergency services, he holds both an associate and bachelors degree in fire science, is a National Fire Academy Alumni, and a veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm war with the U.S. Marine Corps. Daniel is the recipient of local and state awards for public educations and relations. Daniel is moderator of the Fire Prevention and Life Safety forums on Firehouse. You can reach Daniel by e-mail