Editorial: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Last month, we reported that U.S. Fire Administrator Dave Paulison was nominated by the President to serve as the acting head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was facing a tough confirmation process on Capitol Hill. At the time, some wondered whether there should be a FEMA or U.S. Fire Administration. This is a battle – and a debacle – that continues to dismay the fire service. Hal Bruno reports on the latest developments in his Fire Politics column on page 22.

I was just in Las Vegas working on the details for the upcoming EMS Expo and Firehouse Las Vegas show scheduled for Sept. 25-29, 2006. Officials in Clark County tell me that 5,000 people move there every month. The interstate highway adjacent to the Las Vegas Fire-Rescue headquarters is scheduled to be widened – so large, in fact, that the headquarters must be moved. The two engines, one truck and three ambulances that protect the old downtown Fremont Street area will be relocated into two new stations.

With the varied emergency services that Las Vegas and Clark County provide, alarms continue to skyrocket, and it’s happening in many places. Take a look at page 52, where we are proud to present Part 1 of the three-part National Run Survey. This year, we received responses from 305 fire departments in 48 states and the District of Columbia and five provinces in Canada. (If your volunteer department would like to participate in our Volunteer Run Survey, it’s not too late to download an application form at www.firehouse.com/magazine/surveys/forms.)

Also in this issue, Buffalo Fire Commissioner Mike Lombardo details several successes with the use of thermal imaging cameras; see page 78. Many people would not be alive today if this technology wasn’t available. When they were first available, these units were used for specific emergencies. Now, however, as a captain riding in the front seat responding to alarms, I take our unit with me nearly every time I step out of the apparatus. Speaking of technology, I was impressed at several recent fire industry shows where many of the items we were wishing for seemed to have come to fruition: a system that locates firefighters in trouble inside a structure, even if they are working on different floors; another that lets the incident commander view the remaining air in crews’ breathing apparatus; apparatus that lets us operate in contaminated environment; and many more. Many products are being developed to help the emergency services operate more efficiently and effectively.

On page 84, Curtis Massey describes what the building industry has developed in the wake of blackouts and power failures. Redundant power supplies are designed to keep high-rise buildings in full operation. In case of an emergency when the power needs to be shut down, it may be quite a surprise for firefighters to find they can’t shut down the power. Not every fire department has high-rises in its response area, but Joe Berry describes the problems that firefighters may encounter in the 40,000-plus self-storage occupancies that exist all over the country. On page 88, Joe describes the myriad hazards that can cause real trouble for responders. Curtis and Joe will discuss these problems in depth at Firehouse Expo 2006 in Baltimore.

Firefighters continue to lose their lives in the line of duty. A second National Safety Stand Down will occur this month. Safety procedures and practices should be reviewed. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has just completed a training package that should reach every department in the country just before the Stand Down takes place. Please do your part to make sure that “Everyone Goes Home.â€

Tom Brennan, former editor-in-chief of Fire Engineering, passed away recently. He was an inspiration to many as an educator, leader, and fire officer and chief. Many liked what he had to say and how he taught us to be safe and effective. Dick Otte, a member of the National Fire Protection Association committee on rescue tools and head of marketing for Curtiss-Wright PowerHawk, died during the recent Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis. Dick was considered a pioneer in rescue tool safety. George Hall, a world-renowned photographer and writer, filed many stories from San Francisco for us during our early years. His books and calendars were well received. He recently passed away during surgery.

I was proud to call them friends. They will be missed.