(Appeared in print as "Don’t give up the fight")
My term aspresident comes to an end next month, but my service to the association and community does not. I still have fight in me, especially when it comes to some critical issues.
Residential sprinklers. Nearly 84% of all fire deaths occur inside the home. With the proliferation of lightweight construction and petroleum-based plastics that contribute to faster-burning homes, residential sprinklers still need champions.
Unwanted fire alarms. According to the NFPA, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 2.18 million false alarms in 2009. These unnecessary responses tie up resources and burden local fire departments in terms of personnel, fuel use, equipment wear and tear, risk of injury, and, in extreme cases, firefighter deaths.
Many communities offer successful solutions to this problem, but call-data analysis and open minds are the best tools for this job. We do not need to abandon what we know — we simply need to be willing to adapt.
Active-shooter incidents. While a few prominent, high-casualty incidents have caught the nation’s attention, the FBI reports that there is almost one active shooter event every week in the U.S. The fire and emergency services need to raise our level of education of, define our role in and train for our response to such incidents.
Fire departments need emergency operations plans (EOP) that are shared and practiced by all responding agencies. Consider successful models from the military or others that can be adapted to our specific mission. For example, some communities successfully have adapted Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) to civilian EMS.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Three years after the bill’s passage and with implementation deadlines approaching, there are still many unknowns. Fire chiefs need to watch out for pending government rulings like the one from the IRS due later this year that will further define how to determine if a fire department is a “large organization” that must provide health care. In order to successfully comply with the law, chiefs must know the facts and keep pace with the changing environment.
Fire chiefs also should watch for opportunities created by PPACA. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved $1billion in grants to support the community paramedic concept. This is the future of EMS, and it is a good opportunity for the fire service to stay in the business of providing services to our residents.
Responder safety. Roughly 20% of firefighter deaths each year are due to vehicle accidents or being struck by vehicles. The IAFC is an advocate of Traffic Incident Management (TIM), a planned and coordinated multi-disciplinary process to detect, respond to and clear traffic incidents so that traffic flow may be restored as safely and quickly as possible. This is not just a convenience; clearing incidents quickly reduces the risk of secondary crashes, which are responsible for an estimated 18% of all freeway fatalities.
Each of these issues is critical on its own, but collectively they contribute to the goal of changing the culture of the fire service to reduce the number of line-of-duty deaths. Change is never easy; it takes courage, sacrifice and individuals who are willing to step up. I still say the prayer I said before I became IAFC president, and I will continue to say it long after my term ends next month: “God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”