Is global warming real? There are those who say yes and those who say no. But there is no doubt that storms continue to increase in strength, causing havoc to the U.S. economy and to the lives of millions. At the same time, municipalities have slashed the budgets of first-responder agencies — both at a local and a federal level — that are tasked with stomping out massive fires, searching for the living, recovering the dead and later assisting with the clean up.
This week, Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast hard. Entire communities were wiped out by the storm surge, flooding or fires. Subway stations in New York City look like underground swimming pools. The positive part of the event was the national news showcasing our nation's first responders and their moral and physical fortitude. Whether it was the U.S. Coast Guard team who saved most of the crew of the sinking HMS Bounty, EMS professionals transporting patients from NYU hospital, or volunteer firefighters trying their best to stomp out 111 home fires in Breezy Point, Queens, our nation again had the opportunity to see the best of the best of us busting their arse to assist others.
Isn't this proof enough that first-responder agencies must be fully funded and the personnel rewarded with pensions and health care? Don't they also deserve a lifetime of respect from each citizen served by them? Respect means providing the monies needed to secure the proper equipment for possible disasters.
Respect from the community also means that, when a disaster is pending, citizens listen to mandated evacuations. People who ignore this warning put first responders at an unnecessary risk. It constantly shocks me how people ignore warnings, based on ego or an attachment to material goods, and then put others at risk because they failed to listen. While this seemed to only be a few people during Superstorm Sandy, one person who decides to ride out a storm is one too many.
There will be more hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and other natural disasters to come. Will our nation forget about the first responders who took them from their homes to safety, who directed traffic to avoid accidents when power was out and who fought fires to save their communities? Unfortunately, short-term memory problems seem to be a pandemic when it comes to citizens remembering the equipment and personnel needed to address a major disaster like Superstorm Sandy. Days and weeks will go by and, like 911 or the Gulf Oil spill, this event will be in the past. We quickly will forget and that will do little to protect future funding for first-responder agencies.
It's up to chiefs to continually remind their community about the services their departments provide and to ensure politicians understand the importance of funding. How will your department use this event to ensure funding levels are improved? Tell us in the comment box below.