Monday, October 1, 2012

Journal Entry 20: Fire Prevention Week; A Love-Hate Affair

Fire Chiefs, Fire Marshals, Fire Inspectors, Public Fire Safety Educators, Mayors and Councils, teachers and school children all love fire prevention week. Those of us who are “believers” but are not directly involved in the prevention side of the house think it’s a pretty good idea too. If Ben Franklin was around, he’d be standing on the stages in Indianapolis and Baltimore and screaming at the top of his lungs, telling us it’s the real work, the most important work and the work that really counts the most. Perhaps he was right. For me personally, I’m a true believer not only because we can save our customers from perishing in fires but we can save firefighters as well. Fire prevention saves firefighters lives. If you’ve gotten an email from me, it says it under my name and title. It’s pretty simple. No fires, no runs, no incidents, no fires, no accidents; we all get to go home unscathed. Not a bad plan I’d say. I know those who may be reading this under the age of 45 or even 50 who are still riding the BRT’s are still saying “that’s not why I joined.” Bad news. It’s the very mantra of why the fire service was created. The first thousand papers or so that Ben Franklin wrote revolved around fire prevention and preventative measures. The fire companies that were created, following his original writings were really an answer to human failure. Even today, when the oversized doors roll up and the BRT’s are heading to a working fire, that’s a failure in our system. And then we go ahead and put our failures on the covers of national fire service magazines. Does anyone else advertise their failures like we do? I don’t think so. I’ve seen law enforcement magazines and have never seen a shot up/cut up dead body on the cover. Architecture magazines don’t show a collapsed building and the Journal of the American Medical Association doesn’t show dead patients. Getting back to the causes of fire, for the most part (not all) it’s a result of human error (or an “on-purpose” by a mad or sad person) or a failure to comply with a code section (really written to protect people and property……. really they were) or failure to maintain a piece of equipment (e.g. heating, cooking). Looking at this last long sentence, it all seems to point to the human factor.

So I know you the guys and gals riding the BRT’s still hate it (fire prevention activities) anyway. “Hey cap, do we really have to go out to the Halton Public School today and get down on our hands and knees and explain to the kids about fire safety, fire prevention and surviving a fire in their house?” (As I type this, it sounds extremely stupid that anyone in our service would even ask a question like that.) You not only have to, you’re sworn to do it. It’s your obligation as a fire service professional. (I’m addressing any member of every fire department, paycheck or not.) Remember that every fire prevented, is a family not burned out of their home, a person not hurt or worse, a business that is still in business, hope for the economic profile of your town and most of all, no chance of injury or worse to our people. Make sense yet?

So what are you doing this month? What is your contribution to the cause? Sitting and waiting for the next “job” is not quite enough. Getting out and preaching prevention is a contribution we all should and must make. Don’t sit there and say “that’s the Fire Marshal’s job.” It’s all of our jobs from the rookie to the Chief of Department. Sorry to tell you but we’re all in this together.

And by the way, we officially observe Fire Prevention week when October 9th is within the week. For those of you who refuse to look that up, it’s when the Great Chicago Fire started. When President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 4–10, 1925, he noted that in the previous year some 15,000 lives were lost to fire in the United States. Calling the loss "startling", Coolidge's proclamation stated: "This waste results from the conditions which justify a sense of shame and horror; for the greater part of it could and ought to be prevented. It is highly desirable that every effort be made to reform the conditions which have made possible so vast a destruction of the national wealth".

So, hit the off button on the remote for the 52” flat screen, get off the couch and get out and do something good for our customers, our communities and ourselves. You’ll be surprised of the satisfaction you’ll get by doing this work. You’re also saving your own life and those around you in the firehouse. And by the way, make every week, fire prevention week! It’s not seasonal. It’s really a year round sport.

Good luck and be safe,
Ronnie K

P.S.-The National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial Weekend is this week, October 5-7 with the candle light ceremony at 1830 (EST) on Saturday and the main ceremonies on Sunday, October 7 at 1000 hours EST. It will be streamed live over the internet. Go to the NFFF web site at You can participate from home too. Have your local religious institution ring their bells on Sunday. Go to Don’t forget to set an extra place at the lunch or dinner table for the firefighter who never made it home. REK