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Fire prevention or Fight fires?

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  • Fire prevention or Fight fires?

    So, I received a disturbing letter today from the Assistant Chief of a department in New York State today saying he belives it is better to fight numerous fires rather then have an active fire prevention program. His exact words were
    Are we Firefighters or School Teachers? I'd
    rather have a crappie Fire Prevention Program and see more fire then have a
    good one and see no fire ever.
    What are the thoughts on this subject among the rest of the world? I personally belive having a successful fire prevention program is the key.

  • #2
    I'm going to have to disagree with the mentioned chief's opinions on this one.

    While I realize that in some cases reduced fire numbers can create a lackadaisical atmosphere among members, but isn't it our job to protect our citizens from the danger of fire? In my opinion, that includes both attempting to prevent it and if it should happen, suppressing it.

    Yes we joke with our FP guys that they're shooting us in the foot by knocking down our fire numbers, but it has always been a joke since we all acknowledge the great strides they have made attempting to make our residents and business people a little bit safer. We also acknowledge the ways their efforts have helped us do our job by enforcing functioning standpipe and sprinkler systems, helping with pre-plans, etc.

    Oh and what the hell, we cover some 20+ miles of interstate highway and they can't keep our driver humans from crashing or having their vehicle burn up (not to mention all these 'functioning' alarm systems that activate at 03:00 ) so it hasn't slowed down the runs that much!

    Granted there are less structure related fires, but if it has made our residents a little safer, then they're doing a good job and we'll just have to train a little bit more to keep some interior skills fresh.

    Stay Safe!


    • #3
      I for one WOULD rather have an excellent suppression division and a crappy fire prevention division.

      #1 Fire prevention has more to do with socioecenomics than public education.

      #2 Regardless of fire prevention, fires still occur, and we still have to send men into harm's way to fight them. If I spend my money on adequately TRAINING, equipping, STAFFING, and deploying my department, and have none left over for prevention personnel, oh, well, I guess the field companies are gonna have to prevention duties.

      #3 If, on the other hand, I spent all my money on Prevention efforts, I may have reduced the number of fires in my community, but by shortchanging my men's training, equipment, staffing, and/or deployment, i have traded the SAFETY of my men for better public relations numbers.

      #4 Ideally, I'd have enough money to do both, but that never seems to be the case.

      #5 before some mutt tells me that "If you reduce the number of fires, you reduce your exposure to danger"...tell that the 100+/- families left without a loved one, every year, despite radical decreases in fires.

      #6 That chief is a jackass for a) writing that down, in those words; and b) giving it to you.


      • #4
        Let me ask, how much money does it take to have a couple of activity days at your firehouse or to send some of you guys into the field for a few hours to help out doing some residential surveys? It costs practically nothing. As for the people who die in fires, try telling their families that the fire department who is there to help them, which includes fire prevention, is only interested in helping after their hous catches fire, and not trying to prevent it from happeneing in the first place.
        If your going to have a fire department and take part as a firefighter, do your job which includes both training, and prevention.


        • #5
          Oh give a break.
          Now I like any other love going in and fighting fire. I love it. There is nothing more fun.

          Yah know what though? What did we all learn on our first day of fire school? Our job is to save lives and protect property. This starts with prevention.

          Sure there will always be fire, its a fact of life, but lets compare something.

          A newer city with an active fire prevention team enforcing building codes and forcing in sprinkler systems and making sure that buildings are up to par.
          An older urban city where fire prevention is having to play catchup because old building codes were much more lax.

          Now you tell me which department see's less fire, then you justify to me how prevention isn't doing there job and doesn't serve a purpose. On top of decreasing fires, how many 5 year olds knew what 911 was when it first started? Now how many know. Early education is another key.

          By now I'm sure you are all thinking I must be a prevention officer... nope. I would personally hate the job, loathe it, but I respect the men/women who do it.

          Get real guys, fire prevention is an important part of the fire service, and hundreds opon thousands of lives have been saved by learning from mistakes that happened in previous fires and applying them to new construction. I could spend days and write pages citing examples of this but I wont, I think I've made my point.

          FF. Mike Burnes
          Whitehall Fire Division


          • #6
            Yanjam: See #2 in my prior post. I said "oh well, field companies would have to (sic) prevention duties" I believe this would include open houses, school visits, etc.

            Spo0k: I'll give you a break, since you apparently didnt' read what I wrote.

            New City: nice buildings, few fires: fire prevention uninportant: teach people about strokes, cpr, aed, drunk driving, water safety, home safety whatever...but fires arent a problem here.

            Old City: bad buildings, more fires: fire prevention irrelevant, here's why: Kid in school 10-20x more likely to die of drug related violence than in a building fire. This is amongst other problems such as aids, alcoholism, theft, rape, etc. Loss prevention efforts should be focused on the LARGEST problems, not the one that happens to be in our name.

            As I said in the first post, field companies should have some prevention and education duties, but if a jurisdiction is going to spend money educating it's citizens in loss, injury, and death prevention, that jurisdiction should get the most bang for it's buck...which may or probably is not, FIRE prevention.


            • #7

              It is the fire departments job to perform fire prevention education to all of it's citizens. They pay their taxes and really are not all that interested in weather you would rather fight a fire or prevent them, they don't want a fire to happen to them and they expect if it is your job, that you will do it. If it's too much to be able to perform both, then have someone else do it for you.
              Just because a child may be more likely to die as a result of gun violence then in a fire does not mean that prevention is not warranted. That has as much logic as saying you are more likely to die in a car accident then a plane crash so lets not perform maintnance on planes.
              Fire prevention is the reason that countless people have not died in fires, this includes citizens and firefighters who then don't have to enter burning buildings to rescue people. To disregard it is irresponsible and dangerous.


              • #8
                I not sure how it is in the States but up here in Canada as part of legislation a Fire Service must provide Fire Prevention and Education Programs. Records are kept of the activities and reviewed by the Provincial Fire Prevention Bureau during an annual operations audit.

                Now Fire Prevention goes beyond showing up at the school once a year during Fire Prevention Week. This includes Fire Inspections, Preventive or Pre-emptive control burns, 911 education, etc.

                Your fire prevention program is your best Public Relations activity. The Community gets to know the members. And when the time comes to replace a piece of equipment it's easier to get the community behind you.


                • #9
                  I find it difficult to believe that a person with so much responsibility as an Assistant Chief would make such an irresponsible statement.In the U.K. he or she would be facing a discipline case and possibley a new career.


                  • #10
                    No, I'm pretty sure that PUTTING OUT FIRES is our best public relation measure. The public doesn't give a rat's *** about us until they call 9-1-1. But then, they want to see us tear through the streets, jump out of the fire truck, kick in the door, put out the fire, and come back out the door carrying a small child, just like in the movies. Prevention activities might make the 4:00 news on a slow day, a big fire makes it during prime time.

                    I never said that prevention activities weren't important, I'm just saying that it's less important than being able to put out fires SAFELY, e.g. with the proper training, staffing, equipment, and deployment. After that, IF we have the time and the money, then we'll do prevention.

                    If we respond to every sort of emergency: shootings, drownings, falls, car wrecks, ODs, etc...why is it that we only focus preventing fires?

                    When less than one third of property loss is due to fires, why is it that we only focus on preventing FIRES?

                    Why is it, nationwide, we've reduced the frequency of fires by what, more than 50%, do we still kill 100 of our own every year? Is it because we aren't' equipped? No, It's because we spend more than half our training time on EMS, Prevention, Customer Service, Hazmat, and High Angle Purple Elevator Trench Rescue. It's because what used to take us 40 men to do, we now try and do with 12-24 affirmative action "firefighters".


                    • #11


                      • #12

                        You don't get it man. 100 firefighters lives would be saved if no fires were fought. your job is preventing fires, you don't just get up when the calls come in. I said it before, and this is the last time, if you are unable to do both, that is know how to put fires out safely and assist in fire prevention equally, then you are in the wrong line of work.
                        Your public relations nightmares happen on the scene of a fire. The public loves to beat up the departments over the way they handle incidents. They do however love to have you help them, see their money at work in a constructive way that is less likely to be second guessed.

                        [This message has been edited by Yanjam5123 (edited 04-23-2001).]


                        • #13
                          Yanjam, YOU dont get it. Explain to me how Prevention Activities, which may or may not be responsible for the very significant drop in fire frequency over the last 20 years, has significantly reduced the number firefighter deaths per year?

                          Perhaps YOUR public relations nightmares that occur at the scene of fires is the direct result of YOUR fire departments inability to effectively fight fires?

                          NEIL of the U.K., can they really fire you over there for voicing an unpopular (though not illegal or immoral) opinion? That must really suck.


                          • #14
                            I understand what everyone's point is here. Maybe I'm wrong, but Double_Local nearly seems like he's making the devil's advocate argument and purposely overstating his case.

                            Fire prevention is here to stay and it's a good program. I think most department's can successfully implement these programs without a tradeoff in training or staffing.

                            I know that our department focusses on much more than just fire. We do CPR classes, safety fairs, go to crime watch meeting, work w/ our utility companies on electricity and safety. So we aren't totally focused in on just fire safety.

                            I do like to use fire safety instead of fire prevention, because we can not prevent all fires, but we can educate children and adults in proper actions to take when a fire occurs and thus hopefully help them to escape safely. But how do I prove w/ statistics how many fire's I prevented today or how many lives were saved today b/c someone knew what to do when their house caught fire...I CAN'T...so we will continue to see a lot of skeptics on this subject.

                            But when the **** hit's the fan...We still have to perform effectively. If we don't we endanger our own lives and citizens lives. I don't see that we have to trade one off to do the other though. Instead, we may have to cut back on nap time and dominoes.


                            • #15

                              OK, You are getting to be a bit annoying here, I see I have to spell everything out in great detail for you. Now try and follow along here. If you have %50 less fires, that means your firefighters are going into 50% less fires right? OK now, that means your firefighters are now only in 50% of the danger as before, thus reducing fire related injuries and dfeaths.
                              Second, Do not attack my fire department as we do not have major problems at all. In fact we happen to be very very good and our fire prevention program is top notch. All of our guys are well trained and perform their jobs extremely well.
                              If you and your department, like the chief I mentioned above would rather watch their towns burn to the ground and their citizens die because you are too stubborn to recognize the significance of fire prevention then so be it. Me and those that choose to follow the times and recognize the importance of a good program integrated with a good firefighting effort will continue to win the publics approval, have less firefighter injuries/deaths, and less civilian loss of life and property.


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