Since the dawn of time, or as my grandchildren say, "Back when you were a kid Poppa," man has had a love/hate relationship with fire, needing its benefits but dreading its dangers. And since some guy named Bernie invented gravity and man stopped floating around and starting falling down and crashing their cars into each other we, in the fire service have been responding to emergencies related to these phenomenon.
We are fast approaching another fire prevention month. What started out as fire prevention day, in memory of the Great Chicago Fire (apparently Mrs. O'Leary and her cow hadn't received the "Gravity and Fire memo"), grew to fire prevention week, then fire prevention month, and to what we, in the fire service, currently do which is year-round fire prevention.
But that isn't really the full extent of the prevention service we provide to our communities. Even though we still mostly just call ourselves the fire department, we provide emergency response for all types of emergencies, indeed even non-emergencies, so has our prevention programs evolved. We now provide a plethora of prevention programs.
At the risk of missing a few but wanting to give some credit to the fire departments that have been under fire—no pun intended—from elected officials and citizens who don't see all the benefits we provide to our communities, I'll list some that come to my mind:
Fire prevention; fire inspections; plans review; prefire planning; training. Exit drills in the home (EDITH); stop, drop and roll; kitchen safety; fall prevention; car-seat inspections; bicycle safety, bicycle rodeos and bike and skateboard helmet programs.
Stranger danger; computer safety; disaster preparedness; Ready, Set, Go! training; 72-hour kit programs; swim safety and drowning prevention; dangers associated with hot vehicles for children and pets.
AED training; CPR training; blood pressure programs; nutrition for seniors.
Halloween safety; 4th of July/fireworks safety; Christmas safety.
And—what the heck—did I forget training?
Do you get the picture? We provide so many services to our communities that without some serious reflection, we forget just what we do for them. No wonder they and the politicians don't remember what they get for the tax dollars they invest in their fire departments.
All that and emergency response and mitigation too!
I've heard around the firehouse many times, "If it wasn't for people doing stupid things, we wouldn't have a job." I disagree; I believe our job has shifted. We should see our primary responsibility as helping our citizens not do the stupid things in the first place.
Now granted, most people don't do stupid things on purpose. There is that small part of our population that live and die by the "Hey, watch this" program, but they’re usually "Darwined" out before too long.
We have embraced this new paradigm of trying to put ourselves out of the emergency response business and into the prevention business. Keep up the great work out there!
Chief Al H. Gillespie, EFO, CFO, MIFireE
President and Chairman of the Board