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  1. #1
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    Default Fighting Fires or Preventing Fires?

    Since the "do you want fires" thread is severly flaming, let me ask a related question...

    My supposition: American firefighters have a long history of being more reactive than proactive toward fires. The reasons may range from tradition to motivation to resource availability to the base personality types attracted to the fire service. Operationally, I suspect this means that most FDs throughout the country devote a greater amount of resources to firefighting (reactive) than fire prevention (proactive). (Duh, right?)


    My question: Is this the case worldwide, or more of an American / Western / Industrialized phenom? Or, is my supposition simply hogwash? And with apologies to pre-planners, inspectors, educators, alarm testers, etc. Please don't take offense to this simple "and / or" question.

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    Last edited by legeros; 01-03-2006 at 06:18 PM.

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    The American fire service dvotes much less in terms of fire prevention and public education than the rest of the industrialized world. This is borne out by the fact that we rank in the BOTTOM 25% when talking about per capita fire deaths compared to the rest of the industrialized world.

    The average American fire department devotes a whopping 1% of it's budget to fire prevention/public education. That's it - 1%. The average European fire department or the Japenese fire service devotes at least 15% - 20%) of it's budget directly to fire prevention/education and also devotes much more of the supression companies time to public education as well. Public Education is not seen as a dead-end job as it is here and people compete to get into it. Public educators are expected to take advanced college level training to be eligable and continue to take additional courses leading to collge degrees if they wish to be promoted with the division. There are no "short-timers" assigned there and it is not a dumping ground for light-duty folks. It is considered to the PRIMARY mission of the fire department, and is treated as such in terms of funding and personnel assigned.

    The fact that we spend more per capita on firefighting than ANY other nation in the world and we rank close to dead last in per capita deaths should be a national disgrace. But instead we keep yelling for more supression folks while actually reducing the staff of the public education divisions nationwide. I personnally know of at least 2 departments that have elimated thier sole public educator's positions.

    Yes, there is a different focus between the fire service in the US and European and Japanense fire services. And the numbers show thier focus is working, and ours is not.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 01-03-2006 at 09:19 PM.

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    I don't really think it is fair to dump this just on the firefighter, our politicians and public make sure prevention is poorly supported. I lost my first firefighting job because we had a very good prevention program, so good in fact it was decided we were not needed and fire protection was contracted out to the neighboring city and we were out on the street, nice reward for doing a good job.

    Since 2001 the USFS is spending alot on fire prevention, we actually have a real fire prevention branch that is not just the short timers, and invalids. When I started prevention was the place to put the old and injured firefighters, however everybody knows what will go first when the money starts drying up again.

    The simple fact is the money is tied to what happens, not what could have happend. Until that way of thinking changes I don't see how prevention will surpass suppression in importance.
    Last edited by NonSurfinCaFF; 01-03-2006 at 10:14 PM.

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    Is it fair to burden those charged with suppressing fires with the additional task of preventing them? The fire service should certainly put more emphasis on prevention... I agree. But...

    If people want to be fire prevention professionals, terrific. It is a noble and great career... we need MORE of them, with more funding to support them. Personally, I would not choose that profession. Bottom line: it doesn't interest me the way other things do. Using a large brush with big strokes, I feel this is more of a proactive approach. Yes, there are reactive components.

    A fireFIGHTER's down-time can certainly include fire prevention activities. Just how much of this this down-time exists will vary from company to company. By title alone, the fireFIGHTER is a largely reactive profession.

    A fire prevention specialist/life safety specialist would probably be frustrated if s/he was not able to make a difference in the field, do what s/he was trained and educated to do, etc.

    More emphasis needs to be on PREVENTION -- no doubt about it. But let's be honest... there will always be fires, and there will always be a need for men and women who are willing to extinguish them. When you CHOOSE your profession, I would hope that we'd all want to be good at it, be able to apply our knowledge, skills, and abilities, gain experience, and make a difference.
    Last edited by Resq14; 01-04-2006 at 12:17 AM.
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    Is it fair to burden those charged with suppressing fires with the additional task of preventing them?
    YES!

    The same effort taken to prevent fires will result in a drastically reduced workload in suppression, which will allow more time for prevention, which will reduce the workload on suppression, and so on and so on.

    Get it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    snip
    This is has absolutly nothing to do with this thread....but I had to laugh because when I saw your sig I thought " wow, that trojan guy is really making an impression.".

    There is another forum member with a link in his sig that reads "click me" - when you click it it opens up to a page to place trojan on your ignore list.

    As for the topic at hand - prevention is an important role that the FF's,Fire prevention folks, and the Fire Admin need to work together on. Unfourtantly(sp) finding funds for some Depts might be the biggest challenge. Plus getting key folks to realize the importance/need for more prevention may be tricky too.
    Last edited by SSTONER; 01-04-2006 at 07:53 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    YES!

    The same effort taken to prevent fires will result in a drastically reduced workload in suppression, which will allow more time for prevention, which will reduce the workload on suppression, and so on and so on.

    Get it?
    I agree with you, but I just wonder, in busier agencies, why is this the responsibility of the average firefighter? Why not beef up fire prevention bureaus? It only makes sense that once you start making a difference with your prevention efforts you will start to reduce the expenditures needed for suppression efforts. Does that really mean there will be less responses though? Probably not, given the high non-fire response load that already exists. I doubt that this would translate into a shift in staffing/reduction in staffing based on the potential for high loss of life to occur still.

    If I'm not being clear I apologize... I wholeheartedly agree that prevention efforts need to be increased above-and-beyond what they currently are. I just have a hard time believing -- mainly in the bigger departments -- that the average rank and file FF is responsible for making this change when I see them already making good efforts towards prevention.

    I think the biggest thing that we can do is support changes in ordinances to require sprinklers, as well as safer building construction.
    Last edited by Resq14; 01-04-2006 at 08:21 AM.
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    Would my Department want a dedicated Fire Prevention division?

    Yes.

    Will the City come up with the funds necessary to implement it?

    Hell no.

    We presently do the fire inspections of residences at resale for compliance with the smoke detector laws. new consrruction home fire alarms and quarterly inspections of places of assemble. The inspections are done by the inservice companies.

    On a local forum, a resdient who home failed the 26F smoke detector inspection used the forumas a tirade against the fire dsepartmnt, saying that we should be inspecting home and building in the city once a year.

    With 13,000 structures in the city, with everything from mobile homes and sfd's to shopping malls, it would take us 4 years to get them done just once.
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    Is there more "effort" towards fighting fires than preventing fires? See the "Do you want fires" thread and you'll get an idea of why the US fire service is the way it is.

    From the volunteer side, it is extremly hard to get members to give up their free time for prevention duties. It is next to impossible to get a funded prevention/education division. As I look at my budget for the last few years, the 1% amount is about dead on. We have recently combined our main prevention fair/day with a PD sponsored event. It helped reduce our costs and brought more people to it, but it also lost some of the prevention focus.
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    I think being reactive and not proactive is a problem in every sector of our society, not just the fire service. We wait untill somebody dies in an MVC before we replace stop signs with trafiic lights. We wait till planes crash into the WTC before we tighten airport security. We wait untill 9 year olds are murdered before we increase jail time for sex offenders. You get the idea.
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    Of course prevention is improtant but as the Captain said, no one will put up the funding needed to do so. Volly depts (which there are more of than paid depts) do not have the resources or $$ to put up such programs. Do you think small cities and towns will approve a budget just to hire 20 inspectors? Though they should, most will not. This is why we now have to take a reactive appraoch. Politics will always reign especially when there is $$ involved.

    With that said, and probaly the reasoning most cities will not approve adaquate funds is because no matter how much fire prevention and inspeactions we have, fires will always happen. Someone plugs in too many appliances, people will always burn things on the stove, etc... The only step towards a semi fire free socity would be to make sprinklers mandatory in every residential and commercial structure but the cost would make most city counsul members and taxpayers collapse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSTONER
    There is another forum member with a link in his sig that reads "click me" - when you click it it opens up to a page to place trojan on your ignore list.

    ...Only making it that much easier for everyone.
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    Speaking of funding...

    How many of you think the cities will increase the pay of the firemen consumerate with the duties, training, responsibilities and increased productivity that would come with increased fire prevention duties? I know mine won't!

    One needs to recall that where most fires occur the cities and departments are cash strapped. The cost of prevention increases in these high-fire ghettos often filled with immigrants with poor English (all materials must be printed in multiple languages, translators,etc.) Many persons are far from receptive as to fire prevention tips from the "man" or the white devil. Or as is found with the Chinese and other Asian cultures is not to trust anyone in government. Due to new mandates on poor or "failing" schools most principals are reluctant to give up instruction time that could adversely affect standardized test scores.

    The fire problem isn't in suburbia where we see most of our fire prevention intiatives taking place. It is in urban and extreemly rural america in areas of high poverty and high resistance to having anyone tell them what to do in "their" home. The urban problem has is due to overcrowding, poverty & arson. The rural problem is due to poverty, lack of nearby neighbors, poor response times due to long distances and limited resources.

    Whereas in many countries the traditions in regards to property rights and rights of civilians can be limited...in this country we all know that this is not the case.

    In summary you can thow all the money you want at these populations and most of it will go to waste(just look at all your tax money for public assistance, welfare etc. ) However you pay to have a fully staffed Engine and Ladder Company in the neighborhood...the people will have a reasonable chance at being saved from the inevitable fire and at least the firemen will be able to operate with a safe level of staffing.

    Our staffing and safety should come before prevention, Remember we are supposedly the number one concern right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED
    the people will have a reasonable chance at being saved from the inevitable fire and at least the firemen will be able to operate with a safe level of staffing.

    Our staffing and safety should come before prevention, Remember we are supposedly the number one concern right?
    I also would rather the $$ go to adaquate staffing than prevention. Not trying to ****** off the prevention guys but once again I will reiterate that there will aways be fires no matter how much prevention we try to do. Even if we do install sprinklers in every structure, there will be arsonists who will dismantle those systems to achieve their goal.

    Staffing is a huge problem that almost every department faces and most departments still do not have to $$ to provide the adaquate staffing, let alone boost there prevention department. Prevention is great, yeah we need it, it's getting through the citizen's thick skulls and coming up with proper funding that will keep your reactive approach for decades to come.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    YES!

    The same effort taken to prevent fires will result in a drastically reduced workload in suppression, which will allow more time for prevention, which will reduce the workload on suppression, and so on and so on.

    Get it?
    Now lets look at this more realistically, most likely your scenario would play out as one of the recent FH.com articles about cutting services, less fires = less need for companies in most administrators / politicians eyes, it matters very little that the extra time these crews spend in prevention is paying off, they just see less fires means not as many crews are required. Stupid, short sited yes, but it is unfortunately reality.

    In many other parts of the world prevention is part of the national culture, in the US it is not. There are parts of the world were the person who's home is destroyed by fire is seen not as a victim but as a dangerous idiot who threatend the whole neighborhood with their poor fire safety, in the US even the most moronic causes for fire we still treat the homeowner as a poor unfortunate who is now homeless, poor baby let us help you. Just take a look at the WUI, we are not talking uneducated people, we don't have many slums in the interface, yet we can't get people to make the slightest effort to make their homes safer from wildland fire in areas that have burned multiple times. There are homeowners who have lost their home multiple times but still rebuild in the same spot with the same construction and the same vegetation. Until we replace the S*** happens mentality with a more responsible one prevention can not replace suppression to any extent.

    I think prevention is important and should be part of every FF job, it has been everywhere I've worked. I am a huge believer in engine company inspections and crews being involved in public education, but I've also seen how good prevention is typically rewarded, it's not. Its easy to point the finger at FD's and FF's but it is much larger than that. The public in the US is very show me, if they don't have a constant in your face reminder (house next door burns down) it simply doesn't sink in, even when they get those wake ups they only last a short time, within months after the Oakland hills fire the city was unable to get homeowners to follow fire safety guidelines or to make even minor concessions to aid in the planning / response to future fires in the area.
    Last edited by NonSurfinCaFF; 01-04-2006 at 12:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse
    Yes, but by doing more prevention, there will be fewer fires, thus raising the available staffing.
    How does fewer fires place a 5th man on my Engine?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED
    How does fewer fires place a 5th man on my Engine?

    FTM-PTB
    Because with less fires they can close stations and divide the firefighters among the remaining stations increasing staffing to 5, at least until retirements take effect and they can let the positions return to normal through attrition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse
    Yes, but by doing more prevention, there will be fewer fires, thus raising the available staffing.
    Theoretically yes that is correct. We can hire more inspectors, which would in turn hopefully reduce fires, therefore reducing number of stations which would allow $$ for adequate staffing. But are we willing to take the chance in doing that? Say prevention tactics do not work or possibly arsons double? Then we do not have adequate personnel responding which now endangers the lives of our firefighters.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    I agree with you, but I just wonder, in busier agencies, why is this the responsibility of the average firefighter? Why not beef up fire prevention bureaus? It only makes sense that once you start making a difference with your prevention efforts you will start to reduce the expenditures needed for suppression efforts. Does that really mean there will be less responses though? Probably not, given the high non-fire response load that already exists. I doubt that this would translate into a shift in staffing/reduction in staffing based on the potential for high loss of life to occur still.

    If I'm not being clear I apologize... I wholeheartedly agree that prevention efforts need to be increased above-and-beyond what they currently are. I just have a hard time believing -- mainly in the bigger departments -- that the average rank and file FF is responsible for making this change when I see them already making good efforts towards prevention.

    I think the biggest thing that we can do is support changes in ordinances to require sprinklers, as well as safer building construction.
    Why? Because, with the exception of a few departments, most FF have a good amount of down time. This down time, time for which you are being paid, can be used to conduct these inspections. (Don't start typing. I realize that the situaitons in volunteer departments would be different).

    Why? Because the first-due companies know their area better than the FPB could. It will also assist in pre-planning and familiarization.

    Why? Because it cannot help but reduce responses.

    Why? Because ALL fires are preventable.

    Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    (Don't start typing. I realize that the situaitons in volunteer departments would be different).
    LOL... not arguing, just wondering. You made the point of the extremes -- the few companies that are too busy to be doing this, or the vollies that simply have trouble covering the basics, let alone additional fire prevention efforts.

    I guess it's dangerous for me to assume (yeah I know, I know) that most departments DO inspections, DO public education, DO PR blitzes, DO go into the schools, and DO provide fire prevention training and education to their personnel. One of the best times to check for hazards is on EMS runs... there was a great article on this a while ago that tied in the likelihood of an EMS frequent-flyer experiencing a serious fire.

    We do this, and while the town is hardly burning, we still have fires. Do I consider this a failure on our part? No... maybe I should, but honestly, no matter how much money you throw at things like carelessness, no common sense, and stupidity, you can't cure them. I guess that's why I wonder what else could be expected of FF's in BUSIER departments... no secret here -- I don't have experience with a larger department so that's why I'm just WONDERING aloud.

    Like I said in a different thread, I think the people in a position to effect greater fire prevention changes sit on boards charged with approving construction changes (and AFA's and sprinklers), as well as those who appropriate money towards things like fire prevention.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED
    Speaking of funding...

    How many of you think the cities will increase the pay of the firemen consumerate with the duties, training, responsibilities and increased productivity that would come with increased fire prevention duties? I know mine won't!

    One needs to recall that where most fires occur the cities and departments are cash strapped. The cost of prevention increases in these high-fire ghettos often filled with immigrants with poor English (all materials must be printed in multiple languages, translators,etc.) Many persons are far from receptive as to fire prevention tips from the "man" or the white devil. Or as is found with the Chinese and other Asian cultures is not to trust anyone in government. Due to new mandates on poor or "failing" schools most principals are reluctant to give up instruction time that could adversely affect standardized test scores.

    The fire problem isn't in suburbia where we see most of our fire prevention intiatives taking place. It is in urban and extreemly rural america in areas of high poverty and high resistance to having anyone tell them what to do in "their" home. The urban problem has is due to overcrowding, poverty & arson. The rural problem is due to poverty, lack of nearby neighbors, poor response times due to long distances and limited resources.

    Whereas in many countries the traditions in regards to property rights and rights of civilians can be limited...in this country we all know that this is not the case.

    In summary you can thow all the money you want at these populations and most of it will go to waste(just look at all your tax money for public assistance, welfare etc. ) However you pay to have a fully staffed Engine and Ladder Company in the neighborhood...the people will have a reasonable chance at being saved from the inevitable fire and at least the firemen will be able to operate with a safe level of staffing.

    Our staffing and safety should come before prevention, Remember we are supposedly the number one concern right?

    FTM-PTB
    I will respectfully (and I mean that) submit that your perception of this issue is somewhat biased. FDNY is one of the departments that I would classify as one of my exceptions. But I would like to address your points in a general sense, not in a FDNY sense.

    1. Why would a FF need additional pay? If the choice would be conducting inspections or watching TV, I want them out one the street. How much productivity is there in watching a ball game?

    2. Your statement about the fire problem in this country is technically corect. However, all USFA stats show that a larger proportion of fire deaths and a large amount of the fire property damage occur in rural areas. There is no need to argue. This is a fact. These are areas that would greatly benefit from a war on fires.

    In addition, there are models to follow. I investigate 3-5 fires a week in areas from Millionaire row to rural. I can tell you for a fact that areas with an aggressive and competent approach to fire prevention have fewer fires. This approach could be tailored to fit a particular areas needs.

    3. The language issue is a real problem that is particularly acute in the Asian community. I took a NYPD Kidnapping Investigation course and they spent a great deal of time discussing the UNREPORTED kidnappings in that community that are simply resolved with paid ransom. They never call the police. This problem would call for a radically innovative approach that is not impossible. However, I will not pretend that I have the answer.

    4. Our safety should come first. But you must admit that the prevented fire will zero deaths, zero injuries, and zero injuries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    LOL... not arguing, just wondering. You made the point of the extremes -- the few companies that are too busy to be doing this, or the vollies that simply have trouble covering the basics, let alone additional fire prevention efforts.

    I guess it's dangerous for me to assume (yeah I know, I know) that most departments DO inspections, DO public education, DO PR blitzes, DO go into the schools, and DO provide fire prevention training and education to their personnel. One of the best times to check for hazards is on EMS runs... there was a great article on this a while ago that tied in the likelihood of an EMS frequent-flyer experiencing a serious fire.

    We do this, and while the town is hardly burning, we still have fires. Do I consider this a failure on our part? No... maybe I should, but honestly, no matter how much money you throw at things like carelessness, no common sense, and stupidity, you can't cure them. I guess that's why I wonder what else could be expected of FF's in BUSIER departments... no secret here -- I don't have experience with a larger department so that's why I'm just WONDERING aloud.

    Like I said in a different thread, I think the people in a position to effect greater fire prevention changes sit on boards charged with approving construction changes (and AFA's and sprinklers), as well as those who appropriate money towards things like fire prevention.
    First of all, that comment was not directed at you, but at the "I got George on this one!" crowd.

    Secondly, if your town has a low fire rate, it is certainly not a failure, it is probably a success.

    Lastly, you cannot legislate common sense. Construction Boards and the like cannot make someone put a battery in their smoke detector, practice safe cooking skills or not allow candles in an 11 year-olds' bedroom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    Why? Because, with the exception of a few departments, most FF have a good amount of down time. This down time, time for which you are being paid, can be used to conduct these inspections. (Don't start typing. I realize that the situaitons in volunteer departments would be different).

    Why? Because the first-due companies know their area better than the FPB could. It will also assist in pre-planning and familiarization.

    Why? Because it cannot help but reduce responses.

    Why? Because ALL fires are preventable.

    Why? Because it is the right thing to do.
    George,

    I agree most FF's have a good amount of "down time" in which they are being paid.

    I agree that the 1st due companies know their territory and being out in it would help know it that much better. Not just the exterior of the buildings, but interiors as well.

    I am not sure if all fires are prevenatble, I think most are, but all?

    I think it would only benefit us if it were approached gingerly. Here's what I mean. If I am in someone's business I do not have a problem making a recomendation that something be fixed for their own safety, the safety of occupants, or our safety if we are "working" there.

    However when it comes Enforcement time, I like that we have our own bureau of prevention and investigations that can handle that task. We have enough to worry about at fire or medical emergencies without adding the disposition of a business owner towards us because although we are there to help now, we were issuing citations, levying fines, and closing him down last week.

    A definate line between the good guys and the bad guys is a good thing. With your experiences in law enforcement I am sure you can attest.

    That would be the drawback. I guess the question remains in would more good or bad result? Probably depends on where you are.
    Last edited by MemphisE34a; 01-04-2006 at 03:25 PM.
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

  24. #24
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    Damn, someone better check the temperature of Hell, because I'm with George on this one
    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    Why? Because, with the exception of a few departments, most FF have a good amount of down time. This down time, time for which you are being paid, can be used to conduct these inspections. (Don't start typing. I realize that the situaitons in volunteer departments would be different).

    Why? Because the first-due companies know their area better than the FPB could. It will also assist in pre-planning and familiarization.

    Why? Because it cannot help but reduce responses.

    Why? Because ALL fires are preventable.

    Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

    and

    I will respectfully (and I mean that) submit that your perception of this issue is somewhat biased. FDNY is one of the departments that I would classify as one of my exceptions. But I would like to address your points in a general sense, not in a FDNY sense.

    1. Why would a FF need additional pay? If the choice would be conducting inspections or watching TV, I want them out one the street. How much productivity is there in watching a ball game?
    even FDNY has it's share of slow houses. and even in the busy ones, are you really jumping from call to call? if you are doing an inspection, you are still available for a call.

    as for why you need to pay them more, it's called unions. you are changing the working conditions. the union won't allow it until you raise the pay, as their isn't anything in it for them. That means even though they are being paid to be there, you still got to justify that added workload.

    someone mentioned that in order to anually inspect every structure, it would take something like 4 years. is that working 9-5? remember, career firehouses are staffed 24/7. maybe you got to ask to do the inspections at 11pm, when the stores are closing. or a residential inspection at 8pm. maybe you got to inspect the 24 hour diner at 4am, when they have no customers.

    will it require a change in the culture and the way the firefighter's job has been in the past? absolutely. your being paid to be there, the least the taxpayers should expect would be for your actions to be benefitting them.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

  25. #25
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    There isn't as much "down time" as one would think... for example

    Every day tour of duty there are truck and equipment checks, housework, training sessions, and in service company inspections (which we do plenty of Monday through Friday).

    Night tours, there is EMS training, college classes held in the station for those getting their Fire Science degrees, etc.

    You also have to factor in the average time on a call, from dispatch to arrival, doing an investigation of an alarm or treating the patient at a medical or trauma scene, the drive time back to quarters and putting the rig back into service.

    Now factor in the amount of time you are doing smoke detector and home fire alarm inspections, quarterly inspections, task force inspection with teh building and health departments inspections, driving from inspection to inspection.

    Also factor in youth groups that want to tour the fire station on nights and weekends...

    There is nowhere near enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished that we would like, nor is there enough funding to get everything accomplished.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 01-04-2006 at 04:13 PM.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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