Everyday, in Chesterfield County fire stations, a document circulates to each fire station known as the Daily Business Plan. It states things like battalion staff, units involved in inservice training, community events that may have an impact on emergency operations, a link to line of duty deaths nationwide, an informative element about something or someone in the organization, as well as a section on the significant fire and ems activity over the last three shift days. Some days, it may read nothing significant for a given day, not indicating no calls for service, just meaning that the calls for that day were, in a sense, business as usual. In recent days, there have been things like a single family dwelling fire, handled with the first alarm assignment, a triple murder-suicide, a hazardous materials incident with injuries, or a large storage building that burnt in District 17.
The Daily Business Plan is designed, in a one-page document, to get everyone on the duty shift on the same page, as a matter of speaking. My question is, what would it take to get the public on the same page? I cannot, in the space allotted in this article, speak about what leads a man to shoot his children, his wife and then turns the gun upon himself, except to say that the problem of evil exists in this world. I try to warn people about leaving children in a vehicle, especially when conditions have been as they were this week, yet they still do it. In years past, I was involved with an incident where two people drowned, and I would later learn that they had attended a water safety day event, in the weeks preceding their death. In the fifteen or sixteen years that I have been writing this article, I have attempted to talk about fire, from a frank and honest perspective, but the Daily Business Plan still shows that there is much more to do, in the area of public education.
We, as a society, are willing to accept fire as an infrequent event that unfortunately happens to some, but not to all. If my years in the fire service taught me anything, it was that most, if not all, accidental causes could have been prevented. We have decided to depend on things such as smoke alarms and other fire suppression devices to protect us once a fire occurs, instead of believing that a fire can be prevented before it ever starts. Do not get me wrong, I believe in smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire alarm systems. The problem is that we have come to believe more in fire protection, than in fire prevention. We must not be afraid to talk about the causes of a fire, no matter what happened as a result of the fire. Education is designed to teach new things, and to sometimes change behaviors caused by bad teachings in the past. If I wait for my child to get his hand burned because he touches a hot item, then my child may have to go through the rest of their life with a deformed hand. On the other hand, if I teach them not to touch a hot item and discipline them each time they get too close, then the possibility is greater that they will never have to suffer because of being burned. It is my goal to teach you fire safety discipline, in the hope that you will never experience a fire in your home. Though I do not consider myself uncaring or insensitive, I have tried to be in your face with the fire safety messages that I seek to share. Let me say this, the fire that occurred a few weeks back on Hamlin Ct., where a person died, could have been prevented, if everyone involved would have heeded the warnings about the proper discarding of smoking materials. I pray for people who suffer loss, but I also seek to educate others, so that they will not have to suffer a similar loss. To eradicate something means to do what is necessary to keep it from ever happening again. What must change to eradicate the fire problem in America, or at least in Chesterfield County and surrounding jurisdictions?