Fall 2016 IFMA Article from Wisconsin
The Wisconsin State Fire Inspectors Association (WSFIA) has again provided another quality annual conference for 2016. As always, the conference is attended by dedicated fire inspectors and public fire revention educators who all want to improve their knowledge on a variety of related subjects. Their fire prevention comes in the form of code enforcement, which maintains a safe working environment in a business, or at a more personal level where a fire can be prevented at home, or where a family has been educated on how to survive a fire from the public fire education they receive. The attendees are from small fire departments, to very large fire departments and they all have the same goal, to prevent their communities from suffering the devastating effects of a fire. Everyone attends the annual conference because they care, they all want to provide the best safety prevention to the citizens and firefighters for which they serve.
A few years ago while staffing a vendor booth for the WSFIA, I was approached by a person who introduced himself as a fire chief in a small community. After a brief conversation he realized what fire inspectors were about and he said: “you are the people that want to prevent fires, and we are already down on fires for the past several years”. He then walked away, not wanting to talk to me anymore. On the positive side, building codes and fire education must be working, even in this person’s community. Of course on the negative side, there
is still that mindset among firefighters that they want to go to “fun” fires.
The reality is that these fun fires often times come with a huge cost. The cost is injury and death to citizens and firefighters. This includes children who will have to bear the scars of the “fun” fire for the rest of their lives, or
the firefighter who became trapped in a structure and was unable to see his family again. Injury and death will be guaranteed in this business when there are firefighters and fire chiefs out there who are only concerned about getting more fires. Unfortunately I think there are more of those fire chiefs and firefighters out there. The chiefs that will not support fire prevention programs in their community, or promote residential fire sprinklers are putting
civilians and firefighters at greater risk of harm.
The fire service culture of fire has to change. Some of us can remember the resistance to emergency medical services entering the fire service. As it turns out EMS greatly augmented and advanced the fire service while adding many carriers. This change needs to come from the top, at a national and local level. We read Firehouse magazine where every month there is a spectacular picture of a fire on the cover. We all shut out the fact that this same fire at the very least robbed people of their homes, cherished items, and changed their lives forever. We glance over the firefighter deaths as they appear on the different websites. We dismiss the reports of 2,700 people who lose their lives to fire every year, approximately 50 lives in Wisconsin. The fire service as a
whole needs to get ahead of this and attack fire and other safety problems by instilling a prevention culture. This can be started and practiced by each of us at a local level, and this can start making a positive difference immediately. Someday municipalities will be able to get rid of the most of their big red dinosaurs in the fire apparatus bay, and rely on a more effective alternative such as an installed fire suppression systems and simple education to save family lives.
There are many resources available that can be easily accessed in Wisconsin. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) www.nfpa.org has many prevention education materials many of which can be customized to your fire department and printed out. United States Fire Administration www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/
offers information and resources which can be of help. American Red Cross has fire and safety prevention information www.redcross.org that is very useful. This is just a few of the national organizations where you
can get products and information from.
In Wisconsin we have the Wisconsin Smoke Alarm and Fire Education WisSAFE) www.wsfca.com/resources/wissafe/ which with the help of the American Red Cross provides and installs smoke alarms in homes across Wisconsin. This is a fantastic opportunity for local fire departments to provide smoke alarms and fire education in homes. There are 150 fire departments out of 870 fire departments participating in this program.
Many fire departments are simply not taking advantage of this. Is this another example of the fire service resistance to change? Or does this reflect the mentality of the fire chief I previously mentioned?
Another resource is the Wisconsin Residential Fire Sprinkler Coalition http://firesprinklerinitiative.org/state-coalitions/wisconsin.aspx with the National Fire Protection Association this coalition is working to provide education on the benefits of residential fire sprinklers. Contact this coalition with any questions concerning fire sprinklers in the home, the coalition can provide information and assistance.
The fire inspectors in this state should be given your respect for the dedication and commitment to their community. This aspect of the fire service often times does not get recognition for what they do. There was been many more lives saved with a simple pen, than there ever has been with a hose line.
WSFIA Past President 2011-2013