Is it possible to reduce the impact of fire on a community through leadership? Many would argue that responding faster, increasing company size and adding fire inspectors are the top ways to reduce fire's devastating effects on a community. However, there's a way to have a drastic effect on reducing fire incidents without increasing costs to the community.
It's simple: If we in the fire service don't talk about reducing fires and home safety, who will?
Many communities have motivated leaders—formal and informal—who have shaped the community before an alarm ever rang. A simple internet search reveals many stories of citizens who made simple changes just before a fire—often because a teacher, company officer, fire marshal or fire chief worked to change behavior before a fire started.
Have you ever watched an engine company at a local grocery store interacting with the public? As they're ringing up their groceries, a captain interacts with a three-year-old and her mother; the captain ends the conversation by reminding the mother to check her smoke detectors. This sort of interaction is priceless and can change behaviors before a fire ever starts.
The fire chief's role is critical in setting the tone for a fire department and community, such as in establishing standards on training, home safety checks or the number of education programs in a year. Even more important is setting the standard for both how our department members interact with the public and what's important to our organizations.
With the efforts of dedicated department leaders and members, many fire service organizations have established smoke-detector programs as a fire-prevention priority. Reinvigorated smoke-detector programs have gone from being reactive to sending highly trained personnel into the community and performing life-safety checks while ensuring the homes they visit have working smoke detectors. The goal is to stop a fire before it ever starts and to ensure the occupants have working smoke detectors and an escape plan in case it does.
Many programs have included public and private partnerships, which are making a difference and saving hundreds of lives each year. Dedicated fire chiefs, company officers and fire marshals have provided leadership and relentless passion to build critical partnerships and empower those who work with them. Without the vision, passion and leadership, many programs would have died on the shelf.
Fire departments are full of action-oriented staff who are looking to make a difference each and every day. How can we as leaders harness that energy and empower our staff to reduce the impact of fire? What can your department do to reduce the impact of fire on a community?
It may be as simple as checking smoke detectors every time the engine company is dispatched to help the medic unit. That simple change could make a difference in thousands of homes each year.