When the staff sat down this time last year to make our predictions for 2012, money — or lack thereof — was the big story. Falling tax revenues and shrinking grant programs forced departments to layoff firefighters as well as close or brownout stations. But while we were correct in thinking that budgets would be the most universal story of the year, we never could have predicted the year’s biggest stories: the battles against Mother Nature and against senseless acts of man.
Few had heard the term “Superstorm” before Columbus Day; now most of us will never forget it. Superstorm Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard and reached as far west as Wisconsin. Its storm surge hit New York City on Oct. 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city. Current damage estimates are more $63 billion. But while those number represent huge losses, the also show ’s growth since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Then the nation was shaken to its core by the devastating mass shooting earlier this month at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which took the lives of 20 children and and six adults.And before the fire service had a chance to begin healing from that tragedy in Newtown, Conn., a sniper in upstate New York this week killed two firefighters and injured two others.
The fire service is without a doubt resilient, but 2012 was a trying year for even the most steadfast.
But the coming of a new year brings hope, and the fire service made progress this year on several fronts that are good auspices for 2013 – many in line with the Everyone Goes Home program.
Cultural change. Many believe that traditional fire service culture causes poor risk/gain decision-making because the profession is too caught up in an arcane, heroic calling and not properly weighing the potential consequences. The end result is that each year firefighters die unnecessarily. Pete Stehman wrote in the April issue of FIRE CHIEF how proper training and SOPs can go a long way in changing the fire service’s “duty to die.”
Empowerment. FIRE CHIEF’s Career Chief of the Year Kelvin Cochran once asked himself if he was doing enough to prevent line-of-duty deaths. His honest answer led to the development of the Vulnerability Assessment Project. The program — completed and validated this year — combines risk-management practices and science to analyze the likelihood of line-of-duty deaths. The VAP self-assessment tool empowers each fire department to find their own vulnerabilities and take action. Data collection is set to begin next year.
Accountability. The U.S. GLANSER technology, which is designed to provide three-dimensional location data for firefighters without interfering with their normal operations. GLANSER technology possibly could be implemented in commercial devices such as smartphones and tablets, which would greatly increase the economies of scale for the components, which traditionally reduces their costs dramatically.’s Science and Technology Directorate has developed the Geospatial Location Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders, or
Research. In July, the National Fire Protection Associationissued a safety alert warning that high-temperature environments encountered on the fireground could result in the thermal degradation or melting of SCBA facepiece lens. The alert was based on the results of LODD investigations from 2002 to 2011. The findings have been incorporated into standards for 2013.
Technology. President Obama in February signed legislation that reallocated the D Block spectrum to first responders and authorized $7 billion in federal funding for the buildout of a nationwide public-safety broadband network.For many in the fire service who struggle to maintain staffing and standards, the cost of this network seems unnecessary. But such a network will improve dispatch, incident command, information-sharing, telemedicine and more.
On behalf of the FIRE CHIEF staff, I wish you health, happiness and peace in 2013.