In March, my Fire News editorial addressed my concerns about Covid-19, the Corona Virus. Almost at the same time, the numerous departments of fire rescue and emergency services in conjunction with the departments of health services have addressed the same issue. As cases of the virus are increasing, many organizations are cancelling events such as parades and marathon runs. Sporting events are part of the discussion. Should games be cancelled? Should games be played with no spectators? In order to be proactive about Covid-19, everything is on the table for discussion to hinder the spread of the virus. However, being proactive isn’t just about health emergencies or Covid-19.
A proactive leader recognizes potential problems and focuses on preventing them before they arise. They also believe in envisioning a safe future and working towards achieving it. Reactive management deals with problems after they arise or happen at the spur-of the-moment, without planning for the future. Flying by the seat of your pants or being reactive can be dangerous and have devasting results to responders.
Can you think of a few people in your department or in the fire service that have set the example of being proactive? I give thanks to people like Deputy Chief Vincent Dunn (retired FDNY), who, for as long as I can remember, has addressed issues that can negatively effect firefighters. His numerous books on the topic of collapse, firefighting strategies and safety, along with his numerous YouTube videos have addressed issues that could have detrimental effects on all responders. My editorial is not about Chief Dunn, although I do think you should review his books and videos. It is about the mindset of thinking ahead and asking “what if.”
What prompted me to write about being proactive was a class I attended a few nights ago at the Fire Bell Club of NY. The clubs guest speaker, FDNY Assistant Chief Joseph Jardin, spoke about the numerous areas that the Bureau of Fire Prevention is addressing to be proactive in the City of New York. When the class was over, I gave thought to what other departments are doing to be proactive in the fire-rescue and emergency services.
My hometown is growing in leaps and bounds. It seems that every piece of vacant land is being built upon. Lightweight truss construction creates concerns for all firefighters. Have you inspected the new construction in your area? Have you talked with your fire marshals, both local and county, regarding the issues of new construction? Have you looked at seasonal construction, such as Halloween horror houses and “fright walks?” Many use materials that are flammable to create curtains that block or divert the walking path of visitors. Chief Jardin pointed out some of the issues and concerns with escape rooms. An escape room or escape game, is one in which a team of players cooperatively discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to progress and accomplish a specific goal in a limited amount of time. It is definitely a fun event, but many times alterations are made to the rooms that could have a potentially dangerous outcome if something was to go wrong. If you have these forms of entertainment in your district, it is your best interest to be proactive and inspect the facility for possible safety issues.
I encourage everyone to take a look at their fire districts to be proactive in order to prevent situations where you have to react without the knowledge of changes which were made that might be dangerous to the public and to firefighters.