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  1. #1
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    Default How do you prepare

    Today’s firefighters are not seen in the traditional suppression only role, but are seen as professional experts in the field of fire/rescue. Our firefighters come in contact with literally thousands of people every day yet we are a national leader in fire deaths because simply if our firefighters are not educated on the problem then how can we expect them to effectively educate our citizens.

    How do you or your department prepare line firefighters to educate your citizens, or to conduct other prevention activities? How involved are your suppression companies in prevention activities?


  2. #2
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    The answer would be, in most cases not very well.

    Public Education and Fire prevention is not part of the Firefighter I curriculum. It is a fairly short chapter in Firefighter II which is usually skimmed over or covered quickly towards the end of the class.

    Most rookie academies spend a day or two on public education out of 16-22 weeks. Many new firefighters receive no training in public education.

    I wish we were better, but we are not. While we do not send our new members to an academy or require FFI, they are required to complete a skills checklist to get off probation.

    We require them to raise ladders, identify tools, don SCBA, ventilate, make fire attack, test hydrants, test hose and conduct pre-plans among other skills. We do not require that they participate in or even observe a public education presentation to come off probation.

    I wish that we did.

  3. #3
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    Default That is a sad story told all too often...

    What is more concerning is that approximately 79% of our nation's fire service is volunteer who are barely trained to OSHA level let alone FFI, and most likely not FFII. This means that 79% of our firefighters are not receiving ANY prevention education...

    AND as you stated, if they ARE, most are not getting it until the end of their rookie school and after all the "glory" training, as if to say.."We pull hose, fight fire, S&R, raise ladders, cut cars, swing from buildings, etc...and oh yeah, we do this to (prevention)."

    I firmly believe we should be training our firefighters to prevent before suppress, and the fact we do not, speaks volumes of our all around failure and firefighters will continue to die responding to and operating at preventable fires.

  4. #4
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    The fact is the fire service min the US is supression, not prevention oriented. We, as a service, may talk a big game about how dedicated we are to prevention, but the truth of the matter is the average department spemds less than 1% of it's budget on prevention.

    And when you look at the time dedicated to training, it's even less as FFI/FFII combined is well over 150 hours and fire prevention is often a 2-hour lesson tucked in the backside of FFII someplace.

    Throw in NIMS training and haz-mat training, and the numbers will show that maybe, just maybe, pubed and prevention training might constitute a whoopping .25% of a firefighter's intial training.

    Then add in the hours spent on EMS training, and the .25% dissolves into a grain of salt in a salt shaker.

    And how often do we discuss prevention in coontinueing and volunteer's weekly training? Rarely, if ever.

    And we honestly wonder why prevention sits at the back of the bus behind every other fire department function.

    The simple fact is a member's priorities are defined by how often we train on a given area, and what are we to expect when prevention is given a couple of hours during basic training and maybe never discussed again.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

  5. #5
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    Default Could it be?

    Could it be that because fire prevention has been such an after thought in the US that many chiefs do not know what it is they want, how to go about doing it, or what it takes?

    The change has got to be on a lage scale. If a chief invests 80% of his budget in prevention (year right) and prevents 100 fires that year nothing is said because the fire never occured. But the first time he burns a building to the dirt his career comes to a halt.

    So how can we get our community to see that investing in prevention is more valuable than continuing to throw money at suppression? Now when I say that I do not mean not invest in basic equipment and training to safely do our jobs.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Education1st View Post
    Could it be that because fire prevention has been such an after thought in the US that many chiefs do not know what it is they want, how to go about doing it, or what it takes?

    The change has got to be on a lage scale. If a chief invests 80% of his budget in prevention (year right) and prevents 100 fires that year nothing is said because the fire never occured. But the first time he burns a building to the dirt his career comes to a halt.

    So how can we get our community to see that investing in prevention is more valuable than continuing to throw money at suppression? Now when I say that I do not mean not invest in basic equipment and training to safely do our jobs.
    I wish I had a simple answer for this, however, Chiefs tend to do as they have been taught and trained, and the sad truth is that suppression has been the priority for the fire service in this country for a very long time, and changing that will be an incredibly difficult task.

    I suspect that even the most progressive Chief officer would only likely to, in a best case scenario, move to devote 5% of his budget to prevention and public education. Certainly which would represent a significant change in department prioritizes and operations and would buck the current average of 1%. As a a change in that direction would have to involve reassigning salaries and positions from line and suppression functions to public education and prevention functions, which would, without a doubt, meet with internal and union opposition. Even if new tax money in growing communities was dedicated to increasing public education staffing, I am sure there would be significant pressure from union and internal forces to direct that new funding to suppression staffing instead.

    Basically, such a radical move would take a Chief operating from not only a position of strength, but would also require the support of the city government and the union. Certainly this would be an interesting scenario which I would love to see played out, but, in all honesty, given today's economic climate and fire service mentality towards suppression v. prevention, it's not something I honestly expect to see. This would take a chief with a serious set of balls not afraid of a fight.

    I am also sure there are Chiefs out there with the vision and knowledge to pull this off, but as I stated, he would need a buy-in from many other folks. He would like require a buy-in from city government, who nwould need to enacte tougher code enforcement rules and likely extensive sprinkler requirements against the wishes of builders and developers. He would need to the union buy-in to increase pubed staffing, especially if the chief made a truly bold move and hired educators, not firefighters, to deliver public education, including the management of the division. he would require buy-in from line firefighters who would be required to be far more involved in pubed as compared to their current involvement id the focus is truly going to change to prevention.

    I'm not saying it's impossible. But I'm also not holding my breath.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

  7. #7
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    Default Who will blink first?

    We have hit on some major issues facing our fire service and the advancement of public education. It comes down to who is brave enough to make the first move.

    If a Chief puts money and effort into prevention, no matter how many fires were prevented and lives saved, and a building burns to the dirt or a firefighter is killed, that Chief will get raked over the coals because of manning or equipment.

    So it is an educational issue to educate our citizens to see and appreciate – thus demand – preventive services. That is already happening in today’s society albeit being driven by economy. People now see the advantage of NOT having to go to the doctor, or NOT having the accident, etc. With the increase in Risk Managers, this is an area the fire service needs to get active in for our own future survival.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Education1st View Post
    We have hit on some major issues facing our fire service and the advancement of public education. It comes down to who is brave enough to make the first move.

    If a Chief puts money and effort into prevention, no matter how many fires were prevented and lives saved, and a building burns to the dirt or a firefighter is killed, that Chief will get raked over the coals because of manning or equipment.

    So it is an educational issue to educate our citizens to see and appreciate – thus demand – preventive services. That is already happening in today’s society albeit being driven by economy. People now see the advantage of NOT having to go to the doctor, or NOT having the accident, etc. With the increase in Risk Managers, this is an area the fire service needs to get active in for our own future survival.
    I agree that part of the issue is making citizens aware of the value of public education, which comes along with delivering those services. If the community sees the department delivering public education in the schools, as well as at community functions, at the senior center, with the cub scouts and via the booth at the grocery store they will come to understand it's value.

    When they read the blurb the public educator submitted to the local paper detailing how the fire rate in your community is lower than other similair communities above the paragraph that details the amount of time spent by the department on public education, most will come to understand public education's value.

    One thing I do to bring awareness to my program is simply placing a realtor's sign, which reads "East 80 Public Education Program Inside", on the roadside in front of anyplace I am delivering a program. While some motorists may not read it, many will, and hopefully the message that we are out in the community delivering the fire and life safety message will stick in their brains.

    I am also working on posting a "Public Education Log" of all recent presentations including number of educational hours delivered and staff time on our new website.

    The simple fact is there are many in the fire service that would prefer to sit behind the locked station doors rather than venture out into the community. Some of them are chiefs that simply don't see the value in public education. Others are firefighters who simply don't have the motivation required to learn how to deliver a quality public education program. Others prefer to stay inside for fear or reducing the number of fires, thereby reducing the number of times they get to play hero. Some simply don't want to expand the mission of their fire department.

    The sad fact is that a thread here a few years ago that discussed a reduction of fires in a company's first due in some ways sums up our internal challenge as public educators. The original poster stated that his company was seeing a decrease in first due fires and wished that the "old days" of many more first due fires would return. sadly other posters followed saying that they were seeing the same thing and often wished for more first-due fires as the lack of fires was sucking at the company's morale. Even others stated that fires are going to happen, so why is it so wrong that we wish for fires to happen here, in our first due.

    I guess that is the mentality that some public educators face in some departments. The mentality that "fires are going to happen" or the mentality that "fires are good as they keep motivation and morale up". Until we are able to educate those members that having fires actually constitutes a failure on the part of the department, and that while some fires will happen, many can be prevented through education, engineering or enforcement, we will be plowing an uphill road.

    The fact is that we want members to have fires, and that they are justifying their feelings by saying they will happen anyway indicates we have a long way to go brother.

    There are some chiefs that have taken baby steps. there are some that have taken slightly bigger steps, like my chief, who was the first to hire somebody whose primary role is pubed in a department our size in at least, our part of the state. I am sure we will see others, especially in some of the more progressive areas of the southwest take slightly bigger steps. It may come, someday.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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