Chief John Sinclair, Kittitas Valley (Wash.) Fire Rescue, was installed August 18 as president and chairman of the board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), pledging to “shine a light” on several important challenges facing the fire and emergency service. The following is the text of his inaugural address at the general session of Fire-Rescue International 2016.
It is said it takes a village to raise a child … and it takes a lot of friends and mentors for me to be standing before you. The first person I want to thank is my beloved Julie. She encouraged me to run because she knew how passionate I was about the fire service and the IAFC. Thank you, Baby!
At this time, I want to thank all the spouses and significant others for supporting and encouraging the leaders and members of the fire service. If you are a spouse or a significant other, please stand and take a bow.
Without a great team back home serving the citizens, no chief can be successful. My thanks to the firefighters, officers and staff of Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue. Fire Commissioner Glenn Huffman is here on behalf of the board and my deputy chief, Rich Elliott, is here. Gentlemen, thank you both.
Over the past 24 years of membership with the IAFC, I have had the great privilege of working with the best and brightest. Thank you to my friends in the EMS Section for allowing me to hold a leadership position and be on the frontlines of change for two decades. Thank you to all the Board members and officers that worked and mentored me over the years; I learned from each of you.
Many people have asked me what I am going to do this next year. I am going to work for you and with you. As officers in the fire service, each of us has a noble obligation to do all we can to make a difference … .
We are facing significant challenges in the fire service and I want to shine a light on some of them. We are learning more and more about PTSD and behavioral health issues facing firefighters. Firefighter suicide is a trend we must reverse. Firefighter cancer is on the rise and we need to work together to change the culture of the fire service, honoring the nobility of firefighting but focusing on health and safety issues after the fire is out. Working together, we can make progress on these issues.
In a few weeks, we will recognize the 15th anniversary of 9/11. We honor the memory of the 343 firefighters, 60 law-enforcement officers and 8 EMS professionals as well as the additional 2,600 citizens that lost their lives. It is vital that we understand we live in a time in history where the existential threat of violence is being visited upon our communities regularly. Working together, we can ensure our responders are prepared for terrorism, active shooters and dynamic events.
Fifty years ago, Medicare was created, and at that time the height of medical care was basically, "You get sicker, we drive quicker." It was time before modern EMS. No Johnny and Roy, no EMTs, paramedics, Lifepaks or mobile intensive care units. It was a time where ambulances were essential horizontal taxies. The funding mechanism is about transport, not care to the patient. This is upside down. It is time we correct this and push for funding for EMS systems that follows the Triple Aim: improving the patient care experience, improving the health of populations and reducing per capita costs.
Many fire departments are exploring mobile integrated healthcare/community paramedic delivery systems. It is clear that for those programs to become sustainable, we need to find a way for them to be funded past grants and donations. Working together, we can change an archaic law and provide guidance to the fire service regarding the tsunami of change coming to EMS because of changes to healthcare.
I could stand here all day and list the issues we need to work on together. However, you know them as well as I do. One of my mentors was James O Page; he left one piece of advice that truly resonated with me: "Decisions are made by those that show up.”
Show up, contribute to the solution and make your voice heard.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am humbled to stand before you as your president. The most important thing I can tell you is, "I work for you."
One of my favorite quotes is from George Bernard Shaw, who stated, “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Let’s all burn brightly this year and make difference … time to go to work.