Prevention vs. Suppression: Where do your priorities stand?

During the month of October, a bulk of Fire Departments across the country, both career staffed, and volunteer staffed, take one-week per year, and curb their enthusiasm. The focus of their attention moves away from fire suppression and goes towards fire prevention. This newsletter is not to talk at you, not to spark controversy and get you to say “where is this guy’s head at? Doesn’t he like putting fires out?” The answer to that question is 100% I do, but why do people need to lose all the stuff they have worked hard for? Why do they need to potentially get put into life threatening situations, where we have to go in and rescue them for this job to be enjoyable? The answer to that is, THEY DON’T.

Life safety is our number one priority on the fireground, both for those who we swore to protect and our life safety. Those two things can greatly be increased, depending on how much time we give to our communities year-round, in educating them on Fire Prevention and Fire Safety.

“Train as if your life depends on it,” is a phrase that gets tossed around in the Fire Service quite often, and you should train that way. Not only do our lives depend on our training, but our partners lives and those who we swore to protect. Consider how many alarms we respond to daily, both actual emergency calls and nuisance calls. Would it be fair to say that unless you work in a busy urban environment, the number of actual emergencies (possibility of loss of life or major property loss) that we respond to, is probably close to 10% of the runs we take in. The other 90% of our runs are alarms for careless cooking, alarms caused by steam from a shower, alarms caused by contractors working on site, failure for a company to call the local Police Department to have an alarm or sprinkler system put on test etc.…There is a way we can reduce these nuisance alarms, as well as reduce our actual emergencies and that is through year-round focus on Fire Prevention and educating the public.

For those Department’s that utilize Social Media outlets to reach out to your community (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Fire Department Websites, etc.…), are you posting educational materials for your community to view? Are you scouring sites such as NFPA, NHTSA, NIOSH, OSHA, etc. on a regular basis to find out what the statistics are showing for previous years regarding fires, motor vehicle collisions and other types of emergencies you respond to? Are you posting the calls for service you respond to, talking about what occurred and educating your public on how to keep themselves safe from similar situations in a timely manner?

I can bet all the money in my pockets (which is not that much), that your focus is not on these things, but rather on Fire Suppression and what we consider the glorious parts of the Fire Service.

In summary, I am challenging you to shift your focus not just one-week per year, rather monthly or as frequent as you desire. Review some of the things you currently do regarding the prevention of fires and the safety of your public you swore to protect. Consider what other Fire Departments are doing, steal their ideas (that’s the beauty of the fire service) and make them your own, as well as improve on those ideas. You will quickly find yourself more connected with your community, you will probably respond to less true emergencies and less nuisance calls, subsequently lowering the stress levels for yourselves as a Fire Department in whatever local jurisdiction you serve.

Thank you for giving me your time today. Let’s remember this, if you are proactive and prevent something from occurring with education, you won’t have to be reactive and respond to it after it occurs, which essentially keeps everyone happy and safe. My contact information is attached if you ever want to talk shop and help better one another. Take care, stay safe in your duties and God bless!

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Prevention vs. Suppression: Where do your priorities stand?