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ASK THE EXPERTS

Time for fire officials to change ways

POSTED: February 10, 2010 4:00 a.m.

Technology has improved and personal protective equipment and apparatus are safer, while building codes are better, but we are still losing 100 or more firefighters and around 2,000 civilians a year to fire.

  

Since Dec. 31, 2009 we have already lost more than 210 civilians and nine firefighters to fire-related deaths.

  

Nationally, in the fire service, less than 1 percent of budgets go to fire prevention and less than 2 percent of personnel are assigned to fire prevention. We, as fire officials, need to look at ways to change this.

  

Seventy five percent to 85 percent of calls we run are medical with 15-25 percent being fire or other.

  

We are, therefore, responding to fire about 20 percent of the time and are still losing on average the same amount of firefighters and civilians annually.  

  

With the downturn in the economy, we can’t add personnel, purchase new apparatus or build fire stations.

  

Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to educate the public and train all of our personnel to go throughout the community to conduct fire safety evaluations, teach safety programs and fire extinguisher classes, and walk door-to-door to check and install smoke alarms.

  

The equipment list on our apparatus should include smoke alarms, batteries, fire safety guides with a home fire escape plan and home inspection tips. On every call response someone should check to see if the occupants have working smoke alarms and leave a safety guide.

  

Don’t wait until you have a fire fatality to canvass that area of your community.

  

Be proactive, not reactive, as all the citizens in your community deserve to receive the same information on fire prevention and safety education programs.     

  

With all the avenues of communications, information gathering, and networking, we fail in getting that information to the public; e.g.,  product recalls, novelty or toy-like lighters, residential sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, fire safety and prevention education programs.

  

We as fire officials and leaders in our communities need to challenge ourselves hard to change history in the fire service to reduce civilian and firefighter deaths. 

  

Tim Satterfield

Deputy Chief

Dawson County Emergency Services 

 

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