Fire Fighting in Canada

Features Hot topics Opinion
Comment: Proactive equals effective

Many readers will be familiar with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the globally recognized book, training program and mantra made popular by acclaimed author and speaker Stephen Covey. The first habit is “be proactive”, something the fire service needs to embrace.

February 28, 2008
By Laura King


Topics

Many readers will be familiar with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the globally recognized book, training program and mantra made popular by acclaimed author and speaker Stephen Covey. The first habit is “be proactive”, something the fire service needs to embrace.

Take two of the issues in the news lately – residential sprinklers and seatbelts. The lobby for residential sprinklers in Ontario (the only province that doesn’t require sprinklers in high-rise buildings) peaked again in late December/ early January after two fire deaths in homes without sprinklers. The seatbelt issue came to the forefront again in September after a Kingston, Ont., firefighter was thrown from an apparatus and seriously injured.

Builders’ associations oppose sprinklers because installing them increases the cost of new homes. That’s hardly a valid argument when the flip side is saving lives. We know plenty of firefighters wear seatbelts en route to fire calls – and lots of departments mandate that they do – but we still hear about accidents and injuries. Firefighters can’t put out fires or extricate victims from MVAs if they fall out of the truck on the way to the scene, so claiming that seatbelts slow down the response is like arguing that it’s a good idea to remove the batteries in the smoke detector because it goes off when the toast burns.

In Ottawa, firefighters go house to house making sure residents have smoke detectors. If the home doesn’t have a smoke detector, firefighters install one free of charge as part of the department’s public education program. That’s being proactive.

Advertisment

How can the fire service be proactive rather than reactive only when something bad happens because a public housing unit isn’t equipped with sprinklers or a firefighter is injured in a crash on the way to a call? Post stories about sprinklers and seatbelts on department websites and in fire halls; write letters to the editor of the local paper; tell students in schools about home sprinklers and get them to pass the messages on to their parents – kids know to stop, drop and roll and are wonderful fire-safety am­bassadors. Sure, the sprinkler issue, in particular, is a bit of a David and Goliath battle but the home builders are sure to cave when the fire service gets the public on side.

Steve Kraft first got in touch with me in August about a photo we ran in the July issue of our sister publication, Can­adian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly magazine, showing a firefighter conducting overhaul without an SCBA.

This was unfortunate but inadvertent as the photo was swapped at the last minute and the lack of SCBA wasn’t noticed. That’s not an excuse. We shouldn’t have run the photo and I thanked Steve for pointing it out. Steve is the deputy fire chief in Richmond Hill, Ont., and he is clearly passionate about firefighter safety and education, which is why he had joined our growing stable of columnists.

Steve’s Your Call feature demands reader feedback and we hope you’ll oblige, either through letters, e-mails or comments you can post on our website. Each month, Steve will pose a dilemma or scenario that challenges managers to make the right decision. We’re anxious to hear how you would handle things or how you did handle a similar crisis or situation.

Welcome, Steve! 


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*