Saving Megan’s life could have been that easy.
Fire Prevention Week, the longest public health observance on record in the United States, is once again upon us and fire departments across the U.S. will be scrambling to put together programs and meet the public. Sadly, this is a one-time-a-year wonder, and the fact that this week is by-and-large approached by our profession in this nature is a contributing factor to both our national fire and our line-of-duty death (LODD) problem.
This year, in addition to working with your community, take advantage of this opportunity to change your department’s fundamental fire prevention base, direction and focus. Start a prevention program that is no longer a “one-time-a-year wonder” but that it takes place every day in your department and for many years to come. Use this week’s national focus on fire and fire prevention to revamp your department’s culture and approach to our profession. This Fire Prevention Week, focus on yourself and your people, because if your people are not educated on the fire problems of your community, then how can you expect them to effectively educate your citizens. How can they save lives?
Many fire department training programs focus on fire attack, hose management, thermal imaging, ventilation, pump operations, to name just a few of our fireground topics. Many more departments have dedicated “safety stand-downs” every year to focus on saving themselves with classes such as; surviving the “Mayday,” air management and rescuing the rescuer. All very important and vital skills that need to be mastered, but now ask yourself a very common sense, business-efficient and practical question – how much training do you dedicate to prevent the need for any of that? How much education do you provide to your firefighters to prevent the need to save themselves or another firefighter, let alone the fact that such education saves the very people we are supposed to be protecting in the first place. If you eliminate the fire from happening isn’t that more efficient and better for firefighter safety? With our current training program are we not training to put each other at risk? Are we not focusing on ourselves at the negligence of the almost 2,500 civilians who count on us yet die in fire every year from predictable, and thus preventable, causes? Causes we are well aware of and wait to respond to after the fact? This is a simple “horse-and-cart” situation.
Think about where your fire problems are? I am willing to bet a majority of your fire problems reside in the very same neighborhoods as the greater part of your medical responses. Let’s think basic marketing here. How many of your firefighters, your best advertisement for the services and value of your department, enter into your customer base and have direct contact with your future fire victims on a daily basis? Do your firefighters know what common fire hazards to look for, namely the most common and known fire hazards that have been killing our citizens and the responding firefighters for years? Do they know how to make corrections or are they walking past the cause of the next fire fatality such as an overloaded outlet?
Are you a professional, and is your department a professional organization (no implied differentiation between career and volunteer here)? If your fire department is a professional organization shouldn’t your firefighters know the leading causes of fire? Shouldn’t you and your crew know and understand the concepts of installing a basic smoke detector and the basic fundamentals of fire extinguishers such as their location and use? Shouldn’t your firefighters be capable of handling the most rudimentary and basic questions from the public about their profession, which includes information to prevent the one thing we exist to protect them from – fire?