Wisconsin IFMA Representative
Building relationships with the people we interact with at our job and on jobsites are much like building structures. The point is, it takes time to build good relationships, much like buildings. We all interact with people during the course of our day that may not agree with us, or they view us as roadblock to their project or business. By working with them on what we do, and our goals, they can then understand how important fire prevention code enforcement is. That is why we need to educate coworkers, business owners, construction and contractors on the importance of constructing a safe building and maintaining the safety systems.
Let us start out with the relationship with our coworkers. Everyone needs to be on the same page with fire safety and fire prevention code enforcement. When company inspections are done, everyone must realize the important job they are doing. Working with the business owner to understand the fire safety issue found, and get the problem solved. Not only is that fire prevention inspection beneficial for the business, but for the fire fighters that may have to risk their lives during a fire, hazmat or other emergency incident.
Working with the local building inspector is a valuable asset to the fire inspector, and to making the structures in the community the safest possible. There are some communities that do not inform the fire department when there is a new building coming in, or when there is a change of occupancy in an existing building. This is a practice that puts workers, citizens and fire fighters in jeopardy. By working closely with community development and the building inspector these problems can be eliminated. Fire inspectors are the experts in fire prevention and safety and our input must be considered. We should be there to assist in the occupancy inspection, and give input on the issues that are of concern in our specialized field. If you do not currently work with the building inspector, make it a point to introduce yourself, and educate that person of the many benefits of performing a dual inspection.
Business owners can look at fire prevention inspections as costing them more money. By working with them and explaining the importance of fire prevention and safety they will soon appreciate the information we can provide. Our mission in this area is often overlooked. Over 80% of businesses that have a substantial fire never reopen. This affects not only the owner, but the employees and their families, the tax base for that business, and the community in many other ways.
Building a relationship with other fire service organizations is also important. Working with members of the Fire/EMS Legislative Leadership Coalition, a coalition of eight fire service related associations has reaped many benefits in the past few years. All of the fire service in Wisconsin is better informed and more importantly, on the same page with achieving united goals.
With any new administration change in Wisconsin government, there comes new people we need to work with. We will foster a good working relationship with the Department of Safety and Professional Services. There have already been several meetings with the fire service and DSPS. With the meetings come the realization of the dedication we all bring concerning safety and fire prevention for Wisconsin. We all share this common goal and will work together to achieve the best in safety for everyone in the state.
Wisconsin State Fire Marshal Tina Virgil has been present for our conference and has taken a vested interest in fire prevention. Fire Marshal Virgil is now more informed of the fire prevention codes, public education and the juvenile fire setters education available. She has seen the quality presentations and now knows how serious all association members are about the many jobs we all do. Many of you have spoken with her, casual conversation builds that relationship everyone benefits from. We have already discussed State wide initiatives that hopefully we can act on in the near future. This is a good example of what can be accomplished after becoming acquainted with each other, and establishing that relationship.
Another relationship that must be cultivated is with local and state officials, along with state legislators. These are the people that must be informed on how important it is to educate our school children, and citizens, on fire prevention and code enforcement. This is one of those relationships that can be the most difficult to achieve. The challenge is to contact these representatives and let them know how dedicated you are to life safety, consistent code enforcement, and the prevention of fires. Let them know your opinion on current legislation such as Senate Bill 32, which eliminates the local municipalities building ordinances, and AB 83 which will make novelty lighters illegal to sell, this Bill has been in committee for several months and will not move unless you talk to your representative and senator.
As in your personal life, relationships are important. All relationships take time to develop, the previously mentioned people that we deal with, people that make a difference at the legislative level, and the people we deal with on a daily basis, are all important in our professional lives. Take some time to acquaint yourself with the people that can help you to achieve your goal of life safety, and protect the community in which you serve.