HAL BRUNO Hal Bruno, a FirehouseÂ® contributing editor, retired as political director for ABC News in Washington and served almost 40 years as a volunteer firefighter. He is a director of the Chevy Chase, MD, Fire Department and chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation...
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Some of the fires that are most significant and memorable to me werenâ€™t even that big compared to others, but they resulted in the loss of lives, sometimes several, and a few times we lost firefightersâ€™ lives. Fires involving successful rescues are also incidents that Iâ€™ll never forget. Memories of complicated, tenacious firefights that required a great deal of coordination and expertise on the part of the commanders and considerable effort by the fire companies still bring a special smile to my face.
Firehouse: What are some of the most significant advances in the fire service in the past 30 years?
Compton: In the past 30 years, some of the most significant advances in the fire service occurred in the areas of the overall breadth of a firefighterâ€™s role; fire department-based EMS systems; SCBA use and technology; hazmat expertise and equipment; technical rescue expertise and equipment; all-risk public education; expanded use of smoke alarms; residential fire sprinklers; training and performance certifications; incident safety and rehab; PASS devices; incident command; enhanced diversity; information technology (hardware and software); customer focus (internal and external); personal protective equipment; health, wellness and fitness programs; CAD systems; communications equipment and systems; large-diameter and lightweight fire hose; and fire apparatus.
Firehouse: What have you been a proponent of during your career?
Compton: Iâ€™ve always tried to be a proponent of: pride in yourself and in the fire department; staying safe, competent, prepared and always doing the best you can at your job, no matter what it is; creating and adapting to change; accountability for oneâ€™s behavior and performance; and staying mission focused and leaving something positive behind for others when youâ€™re gone.
Firehouse: What do you see changing or needs to change in the next 30 years in the fire service?
Compton: The entire fire service and the members of fire departments should embrace the concept of managing risk and applying that approach to literally all of our service delivery and support programs and activities. No matter what comes our way in the fire service, it will include a significant requirement to prevent or respond to situations involving risk. That concept can be readily and effectively integrated to the point that it would drive our mission, decision making and performance. This involves managing risk to a greater degree in the content and application of codes and built-in protection requirements, teaching the public to be more safe in their behaviors and attitudes in an effort to minimize their risk of injury or death from a multitude of causes, and utilizing constant risk assessment to a much greater degree in staffing and deployment decisions, tactics, strategy, incident command, training levels and procedures, and literally all other aspects of fire and life safety and Homeland Security.
The integration of risk assessment to a greater degree goes well beyond the safety of firefighters and customers at emergency scenes. It gets to the heart of preventing bad things from happening in a community that would create the need for a fire department emergency response, but when they happen anyway, responding to all emergency calls in a way that balances the risk to our firefighters and the public compared to what might be gained by specific actions on our part.
The fire service is already in the business of â€œrisk.â€ Over the next period of time, we should embrace that to a much greater extent, integrate it into all we do, emphasize preparedness, and significantly enhance our value to the quality and duration of life in our communities. Itâ€™s exciting to imagine how many changes this approach would create or make more effective throughout the fire service in general, and within individual fire departments specifically, if that concept drove our systems and influenced in some way all of the changes that came along through the years.
Firehouse: What has your involvement with FirehouseÂ® Magazine meant to you and to our readers?
Compton: My involvement with FirehouseÂ® has provided me with information and tools to be more effective in the many roles Iâ€™ve played in my career. Interacting with the FirehouseÂ® staff, fellow instructors and authors, and the thousands of fire service people who read the magazine and attend the conferences has consistently helped me in so many ways personally and professionally. Iâ€™ll always cherish the things I get to do with the FirehouseÂ® family. I sincerely thank FirehouseÂ® for being on the cutting edge of our industryâ€¦and they just continue to get better.