This is a pretty harsh title but so true in many ways. The following will explain it. Lets start with the idea of training our own as often as we can and make sure we stay as proficient as possible. I know it sounds like we are taking the tour of the perfect fire department. As we know, that doesn’t exist in this world because we lose too many of our brothers and sisters in the line of duty each year as well as the friends and family that may perish from preventable injuries.
Through the years I have been the captain of a volunteer department, as well as its training officer. As training officer, I discovered that not only do our own firefighters need training on fighting fire but on how to prevent them as well. I knew very little about public education then. I knew I had to find out more when the local school asked about doing fire prevention programs. I knew about “stop, drop, and roll” but not much else. The old standby was to put on a movie show students the fire truck, squirt water, and say thank you, good bye, and be safe.
Well, this has just been a view of how it was and actually still is. Why is it that almost all fire departments have training officers within their ranks but they don’t have public safety educators other than the firefighters themselves? When I ask this question, the volunteer departments respond that it’s not their job but the school teachers’ job to do it. The career departments say they don’t have the funding for the position. Again I ask, why we are killing the public and ourselves? As professional firefighters why do we teach our own 10 times more than we teach the public? If we can prevent the incident, we’ll have fewer calls to respond do.
I have developed my motto and I teach it all over: “There is no honor in responding to any emergency if it could have been prevented through education.” There are so many ways to get what you need. One way to train firefighters and teach the public at the same time is to invite the public or certain individuals to your training programs. Some of the information taught can be distributed back to others through the citizens that attended your training.
When you involve the public in your training, they could have input for you as well, allowing your firefighters to learn something new. You can also look at it this way:
The fire department has just had a training session with the public attending. Department personnel received input from the public and gave good advice back to the community. Now might be the time to drop a hint about that new position of safety officer, public educator, training aide, or even recruit a new volunteers into the department.
We accomplished at least one task by training together. We can work on the rest later. Remember that the best plan can fail but you can always ask for help. There are many resources out there, and no one individual can do it all. My parents taught me that when you have been taught something good, pass it on to someone else. The rewards for doing so are neverending.
Jack Durjan is a 36-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant with Martin County (FL) Fire Rescue. He is also a volunteer with the Division of Forestry in the Okkechobee District, located in south Florida. He is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Martin County in the Public Education Department.