Today, May 4th, is International Firefighters’ Day. Each year on this day, firefighters are celebrated – and rightly so.
Most people have an image of firefighters clad in heavy coats, over-sized boots and sturdy helmets, rushing into raging fires. This visual and the notion of firefighter bravado is seared into our minds at an early age.
Over the years as the global fire problem has plateaued, the role of firefighter has morphed into more of an all-hazards emergency responder role. Firefighters routinely provide emergency medical services, oversee fire prevention and risk reduction efforts, and show up when hostile events unfold. They witness the underbelly of addiction in our communities; respond to life safety incidents in businesses, homes, on the roads; and in our wildland areas – not to mention they struggle with exposure to carcinogens and other occupational hazards. And yet, very few could predict the battle they are fighting now.
COVID-19 has catapulted first responders into uncharted territory. Since the pandemic took hold in the US, we know that more than 20 firefighters have died, and an unknown number of others have been stricken with the virus. They are not out of the woods yet. The current circumstances that firefighters are facing may differ from long-held images of fires being knocked down – but their mission to protect and save continues to be at the heart of all that they do.
“When I'm called to duty God, wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age,” the Fireman Creed says (in part). Today, and for quite some time now, flames have been a metaphor for whatever comes a firefighter’s way.
At NFPA, we celebrate firefighters every day. We applaud their good deeds and recognize that their roles pertain to so much more than fire. We work to reduce risk so that first responders are put in harm’s way far less often. NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley often says, “NFPA goes where first responders go.” It’s been this way for nearly 125 years.
Our organization works to provide the timely information that responders need to do their jobs well and return home safely to their families. NFPA supports the fire service and advocates for responders in a variety of ways.
- We develop codes, standards and best practices. Currently, we are consolidating 114 NFPA documents into 38 standards so that firefighters and others have relevant guidance formatted in a way that makes sense for today’s responders.
- Findings and insights generated by our research and analytics team, as well as from our affiliate, The Fire Protection Research Foundation, impact fire service operations, tactics, resourcing, and the products found in homes today.
- The NFPA Responder Forum, slated to take place later this year for the fifth time since 2016, helps emerging leaders tackle workplace and societal concerns. The Forum provides a unique space for collaboration, spurs forward-thinking, and emphasizes the importance of cultivating invaluable leadership skills so that the fire service remains a respected institution.
- NFPA has a long history of collaborating with those who share our vision of eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. We proudly join forces with the International Association of Firefighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, Metro Chiefs, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, National Fallen Fire Fighters, FEMA, DHS and others in the interest of firefighter safety.
- We develop training so that responders can respond to new hazards involving energy storage systems, alternative fuel vehicles, flammable refrigerants, and active shooters. We also set the bar for professional qualifications, fire inspection, fire protection, wildfire mitigation, hot work, drones, and many other topics.
- Our organization educates the public about fire causes and safety tips; works to reduce risk in our communities; and informs policymakers and officials about the dangers that first responders and citizens face.
Like the fire service, NFPA has morphed into an all-hazards organization. We share the same objective that firefighters have – to protect people and property. That’s why today and every day, we are proud to support the fire service.