Look ahead, not back
Nicholas V. Cagliuso,
Brooklyn, New York
It is unbelievable to think that some members of the fire service continue to blame the inclusion of EMS into the fire service for a myriad of the fire service`s problems. In “The Treadmill” (August 1997), William F. Crapo raises some extremely valid points about why firefighter death and injury rates haven`t decreased even with a 39.79 percent decline in fires between 1977 and 1995. Some of them, however, are ludicrous.
He begins by blaming “U a new breed of leader U a bureaucrat U for this lack of improvement in fire injuries and fatalities.” In other words, having a fire chief with 25 years of field experience but not a single college credit in management, public administration, fire science, or the like, makes a better fire service leader because “he knows what it`s like out there, not like those suits and ties up at headquarters.” Unfortunately though, his stereotyping of this “new type of leader” is the typical fire service attitude toward administrators from the “outside.” This mentality will change with future leaders, such as I, who have a bachelor`s degree in fire science (as does the author) and a master`s degree in emergency medical services. These individuals will cause the fire service to realize that formal education throughout the ranks and in administration is the only way for the fire service to survive.
Crapo cites the “U wholesale adoption of EMS into the fire service U” as one reason for this lack of improvement in fireground fatalities. He admits that many departments have taken over EMS systems simply to justify their overinflated budgets and overall existence [in an agency doing nearly 40 percent fewer fire runs (work) than it did 20 years ago]. He puts the icing on the cake by stating, “U we would often miss first-due fires while holding someone`s hand waiting for an ambulance U.” To think that a college-educated, 30-plus-year fire service veteran would look so far down on EMS as to consider prehospital care as merely holding someone`s hand U.
In addition, he proposes that a “U basic philosophical change take place in the fire service U” and that ” U we return to the days when it was recognized that the primary function of the fire department was preparing for and fighting fires U.” I would like to propose a philosophical change myself: [Let`s] stop looking back and memorializing how good it was in the past. We should wake up and concern ourselves with topics we can improve–those existing in the present and the future U.
The author also states that “U the administrative, EMS, and other functions must be secondary. It is time to rededicate the fire service to firefighting; our job is to be prepared to respond to fires in the quickest possible time and do the most efficient job possible once there.” I always thought a fire department`s primary objective was to save lives.
U. My point is to have the members of the fire service who believe that it is acceptable to blame administration and EMS for some of the fire service`s shortcomings to look at these areas as places that can only help them, not destroy them U.