Editorial: It’s A Whole New Ball Game

We received an e-mail other day and, lo and behold, it was almost like Christmas in February. President Bush was going to propose $3.5 billion for the fire service in the federal budget for the 2003 fiscal year. We immediately dispatched our Fire Politics Contributing Editor Hal Bruno to sit in on the special announcement.

We, meaning the fire service have been pushing for and talking about bills to give us some real money for so many years, it's almost like crying wolf. Many senators and congressman have fought for and against us. There have been elections in between and new people have had to be educated along the way about our problems and our strengths. There have been a lot of skirmishes between fire service organizations and those who represent us. Who would ever believe from almost receiving just peanuts it's now starting to look like we are going to receive the real thing. It took the worst disaster to hit this nation, a terrorist attack, to show all the elected officials what we have been saying all along. The fire service are the real first responders. It doesn't matter what is written on paper - organizations that need hours and days to arrive on scene can only supplement the real first responders. With anthrax and the possible future attacks with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), most of the elected officials have finally thrown in the towel to accept the fire service as the real deal. It took 343 of us to die along the way during one incident on Sept. 11.

A few months ago, I said there has to be enough money to equip and train all of the fire service to be prepared for any emergency, yet we read daily that the federal government isn't prepared for the unexpected - we don't have enough vaccine, we don't have enough of this and that. What have they been waiting for? But now have to stop and give credit where credit is due. They seem to be listening a lot lately. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of the funding to prepare the American fire service to rise to an even higher level of preparedness and education.

On an evening news program just days before the Winter Olympics opened, it was reported that more troops were stationed in and around Salt Lake City than were fighting the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. Protecting the public from the terrorist threat against major sporting events like the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the like seems to be a new way of life.

From a firefighter health and safety perspective, I'd like you to take special note of several articles in this issue. On page 14, we present Chiefs Concerns, in which Deputy Chief Mike Smith of Washington, D.C. Fire & EMS discusses two words: "routine" and "Size-up." These two words appear consistently in investigation reports from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). A concern that is a must read for everyone who thinks the next run is routine.

We also present the next installment of our Quick Guide for Responders, a series designed to assist first responders by Deputy Chief Ted Jarboe and District Chief Bob Stephan of the Montgomery County, MD, Fire & Rescue Service. This month's guide, which can be found on page 67, focuses on managing the response to a suspicious package, vehicle and/or bombing. In Emergency Vehicle Operations on page 30, Contributing Editor Mike Wilbur goes back to the basics: How big is your department's checkbook? If we don't arrive safely, then we can't perform the mission we have been trained and equipped to do. A real eye-opener for everyone who rides on, drives or supervises the apparatus, equipment or department.