Chief's Corner

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Not For Prime Time

Posted on October 6, 2011 by Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines

Thank you is not enough for those who toil in fire prevention and mitigation. These are people who are seldom rewarded and are often criticized for their work. In most instances, the fruits of their efforts are not realized for years. They are often demeaned by their short-sighted colleagues, viewed as obstructionists to growth development by political leaders, and considered unnecessary by budget bureaucrats.

“For those who sit quietly in their offices late in the evening, under pressure to review a plan or approve a permit ... there is no prime time coverage.”

More appealing is the instant gratification that firefighting offers. Take the call, respond, do your duty, and receive a slap on the back for a great job. Reporters surround firefighters with bright lights played on grimy faces and the burned-out shell of a house owned by a distraught family. Firefighters gather around the television at prime time and relive the coverage of their most recent event. Reveling in euphoria after "the big one" back at the station provides firefighters with a boost to morale seldom realized by those committed to prevention and mitigation.

firefighter teaching fall prevention to older adults

A DeKalb County (GA) firefighter teaching fall prevention to members of his community.

However, for those who sit quietly in their offices late in the evening, under pressure to review a plan or approve a permit ("get it off your desk!"), there is no prime time coverage. Reviewing plans for a new senior citizen residential facility or trudging through a construction site for a flammable storage facility on a cold winter morning brings no prime time coverage. No bright lights. No slap on the back. No "great job!"

For the fire marshal, public educator, and fire protection engineer, gratification is hearing on the morning news, "A family of four is breathing a sigh of relief today after an early morning home fire. They were saved by the warning sound of smoke alarms provided by their local fire department. Their fire sprinkler system controlled the fire until firefighters arrived. There was minimal damage to their home."

Four souls in peril who survived trump a slap on the back or a "great job" every time.

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