Well, here we are: October, Fire-Prevention Month, right?
I'm sure many of us have been very busy hanging banners outside our fire stations; ordering pamphlets, coloring books and other written materials; drafting city council resolutions proclaiming the month of October as Fire-Prevention Month; and of course dusting off the Sparky the Fire Dog costume and charging the battery of the remote control for the talking fire engine.
If you detected a hint of sarcasm in my opening statement, my apologies; it wasn't intended as a criticism of any particular program or the people involved. My point is that if we've identified worthwhile and effective fire-prevention programs, why are many of us still only emphasizing them in one month of the year rather than in another month—or continually, for that matter.
You noticed I said us because in some respects I am pointing the finger at myself and my own department.
When asked what the core mission of a firefighter or fire department is, most of us reply "to save lives and protect property." While very true, there's much more to this statement.
We also need to be able to explain how we're saving lives and protecting property. And we all know but don't always readily admit that more lives and property are saved through our efforts in fire-code enforcement and compliance and public fire-prevention programs and services than through rescue and extinguishment.
The difficulty in explaining this is that data either isn't collected or to a large extent can't be collected.
For example, there is plentiful data on fire fatalities and property loss in relation to the presence of smoke alarms, sprinkler and other fire-protection systems. But there's very little to nothing on the number of lives or amount of property that was saved from prevention measures being in place.
Within the context of firefighter health and safety, we should look at fire prevention as a critical component. We have said as much in the 16 Life Safety Initiatives:
#14: Public education must receive more resources and be championed as a critical fire and life safety program.
#15: Advocacy must be strengthened for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers.
Perhaps these two initiatives should be higher on the list. Maybe the Safety, Health & Survival Section can make these the focus of Safety and Health week in June 2015. Can we think of any better way to protect our own than preventing exposure to the risks to their health and safety?
Let's make every month Fire Prevention Month!
G. Keith Bryant
President and Chairman of the Board