So after 19 years on C-shift and most of that on an engine company, I was transferred to the Fire & Life Safety Division. My new roles would be titled Community Programs Coordinator and Public Information Officer. In other words, I would now spend the next two years leading the public education section of Fire & Life Safety, and spend a great deal of time working with news agencies in our area. Can you say culture shock?
One of our first assignments when I arrived was to revamp the Juvenile Firesetter process for our organization. The first order of business was to receive the training in Juvenile Firesetter I and II. Once this was completed, we began to implement the things learned in this training, when children were involved in starting fires in Chesterfield County. Measuring success with a Juvenile Firesetter Program is very difficult, where recidivism was what most departments used to determine whether or not a program was successful. Incidentally, you may notice me using plural pronouns in this. I had a great group of people working with me in this section and they were vital to the changes that took place during my tenure.
School programs were a major responsibility of our section, needing the help of operation’s personnel to accomplish the first and second grade programs. One of the things that we set out to do was to move the fourth grade program from a booklet to a computer-guided program. This came with some challenges, but we were able to bring fire safety education to, at least, late 20th century technology. The first grade program centered on smoke alarms, stop, drop and roll, calling 9-1-1 and so on. The second grade program involved the use of the Fire & Life Safety trailer, which was used to teach children how to stay low and go when smoke alarms activate in their homes. The trailer has many different uses, but getting out of doors and windows was the main point of the training.
Funny story about the Fire & Life Safety trailer, I received a call one day, talking with a lady about the Fire & Life Safety House. Long story short, she was talking about a training aid that fits in the back of a truck, while I thought that we were talking about a trailer that you pulled with a truck. I learned that day about a training aid that I did not know that we possessed.
Another interesting group that I worked with was the Water Safety Coalition. This coalition was made up of some great people from pool companies across the state, aquatic recreation facilities, the Red Cross and Hampton University, to name a few. Little did I know how involved I would be with water safety in Chesterfield, the state and the nation. Chesterfield Fire & EMS partnered with Douglas Aquatics, to create a video that we titled “Bridging the Gap between lifeguards and EMS.” Amazingly, this video would be used across the country.
Something that happened during this two years was that I became the pastor of Bermuda Baptist Church, in June 2005. I know that this was something that only God could have orchestrated. I just celebrated ten years as pastor of the church. This part of my journey proved that God could accomplish whatever He chooses to do, no matter what challenges seem to be in the path.
I finish this article by giving a, not so glowing, testimony, about my two years in the Fire & Life Safety Division. I had no desire to go to a day-work position. The men and women that I worked with were outstanding, but my selfish desire to stay in a fire station overrode the Bible’s teaching, where Paul says, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” I did learn this lesson because of these two years. I am ashamed to admit that my hard heart made these two years tough on my family and those that I worked around. This was a defining period in my life, which set the stage for where I am today. I went to Deputy Chief Mark Sacra’s retirement reception last week, where many gathered to celebrate his distinguished, 37-year career. Mark shared that telling me that I was going to day-work was one of the most difficult messages that he had to deliver, but that, in the end, “it was one of the one’s that we got right.” I couldn’t see it then, but I know it now.