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...
To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
Proficiency on the fireground: no shouting, no running, and realizing that the emergency was caused by, and happening to, someone else and that our job is to solve the problems in a calm and professional manner.
I was a proponent of implementation of incident command. Many firefighters resisted it I think due to the element of change itself. Yet it has proven to be an invaluable tool in handling emergency scenes.
I encouraged education and meaningful training at all levels: cadet training, in-station training, officer development, departmental drills, local, state and federal classes, seminars and college education. The more training and education the members achieve, the better the department, improved operations and increased level of service to the community.
Firehouse: What do you see changing or needs to change in the next 30 years in the fire service?
Smith: With all of the advances that have been made, we still have too many firefighter injuries and deaths. There needs to be a cultural change in regard to safety. Some of that change rests with firefighters, company and chief officers, but it also requires fire department administrators to step up and ensure that adequate staffing and training is provided. To staff front-line apparatus below nationally recommended standards in the name of economics, or for whatever excuse is used, certainly perpetuates situations where safety is drastically impacted. We can make all the excuses that we want, but there is no changing the truth that firefighting is dangerous and when full staffing is not provided it becomes a recipe for disaster.
I think we should continue to seek the advancement of PPE to even greater levels. I see advances in thermal imaging where it will be incorporated into the SCBA facepiece where a firefighter needs to only look through his or her mask and be able to utilize thermal imaging.
I think that global positioning will be an invaluable tool in fireground accountability and it should be available within a few years.
I feel that we need to get back to the basics in firefighting training. We have so many demands on specialized training that we overlook or have little time for firefighting training. This is not a putdown on the other areas, but with EMS, high-angle rescue, trench rescue, vehicle extrication, terrorism, hazardous materials, water rescue, swift water rescue, NIMS, etc., combined with emergency responses and fire prevention duties it leaves little time for the basics. Yet when we look at the serious firefighter injuries and deaths, they rarely occur in those specialized areas, but do occur at alarming rates under firefighting conditions.
The firefighters in this country need a greater say in how buildings are being constructed. No one is looking out for the safety of firefighters. The building industry seeks buildings that can be constructed faster and cheaper, period! The code-setting authorities are run by manufacturers, builders and the trades and despite what the name of their organization may imply, firefighter safety is not the priority that it should be. These same organizations say they seek the input from the fire service, but most fire department budgets do not have the available funds to be involved. Additionally, the authority having jurisdiction allows the erection of buildings and modifications to existing buildings without consideration of firefighter safety.
There is a need for fire departments to strongly review their tactics in light of the changes in todayâ€™s buildings. The use of lightweight materials in over 90% of residential properties being built today demands that we have greater knowledge of the buildingâ€™s components in order to safely fight fires in these structures. Hopefully, there will be a national push for the marking of these structures to permit firefighters to know on arrival if lightweight components are contained in the building.
Firehouse: What has your involvement with FirehouseÂ® Magazine meant to you and to our readers?