Comment: Healing the community
If only I had a crystal ball. A time machine. The gifts of Nostradamus. How nice an end date, a certainty of any kind might be at the hieght of this second wave, this colder, snowier, exhausting déjà vu. I hope you are all healthy and safe, with boredom and bleak weather as your main complaints. Those of us that can say that count ourselves amongst the lucky, the relatively unscathed. Time will tell, for healing happens in the awakening, the aftermath of a crisis, when survival-mode is shed; guards are dropped. It’s over. Post-COVID-19. Imagine it? We aren’t there yet, but it’s time to consider it. In February’s Fire Fighting in Canada podcast, guest Chris Harrow, who co-authors our Leadership Forum column, noted that the fire department is going to be a key part of healing the community when we get out of this.
The novel coronavirus won’t necessarily go away. Science predicts it will become endemic, eventually reduced to a nuisance instead of a globe shuttering threat, as viruses such as the Spanish Flu of 1918 have done. The novel coronovirus will be not so novel anymore, will start to become background noise, a whooshing highway in the distance instead of playing full blast on our livingroom stereo. As it recedes from the forefront and becomes part of each city and town’s collective memory, the question of what role the fire department plays in helping heal the community is an important one for all departments to consider. Firefighters are there to help those in need, they are all hazards responders. The disengagement of being shuttered in, the toll on mental health, the habit of staying home when being out and about with others is vital for long-term health, these will all need to be addressed. Healthy social interactions, conducted without pervasive fear, are imperative to the human existence. It’s a normal we must and shall return to.
Fire departments will need to be part of facilitating this return to a real normal. As community role models, firefighters are in a privileged position to help bring the members of their community back together in many ways, be it by example or by community fundraising events driven by the department. I commend the sentiments made by Harrow and DeSorcy in the February podcast that the fire service, though stereotypically thought of as slow to change, will change and adapt and come through this stronger than ever.
And through this stronger service will also be a stronger community.