8 comments on “Boston Globe Strikes Again

  1. Bill, I have a hard time seeing the Boston Globe or the growing chorus of voices in the media and the public as the villains here. Likewise, the fire service should resist the temptation to see itself as the victim.

    This is an important discussion we clearly need to have. What kind of community do we want to live and what role do we expect government to play in promoting or achieving that vision?

    Sometimes, I fear, the fire service sees itself apart from government, and blames government in general, not just elected officials in particular, for their presumed plight. This oversimplification clearly short-circuits the more thoughtful approach our success achieving reduced fire losses requires.

    My sympathy for the Boston Fire Department is pretty slim to start with. The mob action that forced out Chief Abraira strikes is all the more evidence that the situation there deserves even more scrutiny than the situation confronting the fire service as a whole. As such, I am reluctant to read too much into the Globe’s attention to Boston or its ability to influence much less resolve the debate we need to have among ourselves.

    As for your citizen’s question, I too have heard similar arguments. Rather than defending the status quo, I found the suggestion an opportunity to explore other ways we could address the community’s expectations more efficiently. People like him remain the minority, but they do have a valid point. In some, perhaps even many, cases, it would be cheaper and more productive for us to socialize the losses and help people rebuild rather than provide the illusion of protection.

    That said, I still think we have an important role to play when it comes to showing people that the community and its government cares for everyone, especially the most vulnerable members of our society. That probably makes me a bleeding-heart, but so be it.

    • How is putting out fires in people’s homes, an illusion of protection ? Or performing CPR or other lifesaving measures on your spouse or child? Or getting the folks in Colorado out if thier cars when they have driven their cars into the water ? Or a thousand other things that fire depts do every day?

  2. Good stuff Bill.

    The fire service has never been one to crawl in its shell and hide (for long). There will always be that next crisis that no other city entity is prepared to deal with. Not five months ago Boston was brutally attacked killing and injuring residents and visitors. Take tally of how much of a role the fire department played in mitigating that mess. Yes the criticism stings but I think it’s a good thing to embrace criticism and use it as an opportunity to reflect and accept critique that was useful, and explain what is misunderstood. We know there are many departments that don’t take full advantage of building and sustaining their relationship with the community. If they don’t it just increases opportunity for misunderstanding and lack of support. I would like to offer to those departments that are looking to engage and turn around this criticism a free community advocacy tool kit from Vision 20/20. Vision 20/20 is a project started by fire service leaders to find ways to fill the gaps in fire loss prevention. The work of the Vision 20/20 has been funded under FEMA AFG grants and support from other private organizations. I mentioned the free community advocacy toolkit. The toolkit, while developed to build support for fire prevention, will work for any purpose where you need to build support and advocacy for a community effort. Fire departments need to be involved with all levels of the community or they will be misunderstood and thought irrelevant, no matter how important the mission is. So the department must seek out the advocacy and support. The toolkit offers tons of effective guidelines and advice on how to go about building your credibility. To find the toolkit go to. http://www.strategicfire.org/advocacytoolkit/

    I would also like to recommend that a fire department could begin almost immediately to build a relationship with residents by engaging in the process of all hazards Community Risk Reduction (CRR). CRR generally means in-service home visits by the operations crews offering free home safety information especially smoke alarm installation. It is hard to criticize a department that visits the homes and for the purpose of making them safer. The Vision 20/20 web site has information on how to start a CRR process and right now there is even remaining but limited opportunity for Vision 20/20 to offer a free workshop on-site to introduce fire departments to the concept. http://www.strategicfire.org

    Fire departments that stand on the sidelines will continue to be marginalized by big mouths that don’t know what they are talking about. Join in the fight and take charge of the department’s success by engaging in the community. Thanks again Bill for a blog promoting leadership.

  3. “Illusion of Protection” may be something like:

    1. A fire truck arriving at a well involved house with staffing of two. It’s a fire truck all right, it just can’t do much very effectively.
    2. Six rigs showing up from a fire department. With one FF on a rig. (Been there, so yes it happens)
    3. Personnel showing up on bid red rigs with little or no training or certification. And they don’t have to be volunteers. Just watch some of the arrival videos that are posted on line.
    4. I know of two careers that sometimes deliver service a little too late. One is embalming; “he looks so good in there”, but of course “he” is dead. And firefighting. We were here, but the joint still burned down.
    5. The troops always tell the community of they don’t have the new expensive truck that citizens will actually die in the streets. Check any news report on a department mill or tax levy request. Happens all the time. A district near me just did it. I’ve lived here 21 years, can’t remember the last fatal fire in a house because the FD was underfunded. I have seen those same funds mismanaged. There is a district that has an area of $1M+ homes without hydrants. Guess how many tankers they have? (0) And those people think they are getting quality fire protection.
    6. I have been to many fires where the arrival of the FD had absolutely no effect on the outcome. The building burned to the ground anyway. We would have saved effort, water and time if we had just let it burn to the ground. As it was it took us just under 24 hours to burn it down. Without our (FD) interference it would have burned down in three hours.
    7. People don’t get to vote on the quality of there fire protection. They call, the FD shows up. No one said they had to be good at the job.

  4. As someone who splits my time between Massachusetts and Florida, I knew Chief Abraira from his time in Palm Bay and was very excited for Boston as I had seen his and the fire fighters of Palm Bat response to a number of fires and emergency responses. Unfortunately it just shows that it’s very difficult for someone other then a “good ole boy who won’t change how we’ve been doing things all these years” to make it up here in New England/Northeast. I learned this lesson firsthand as I was 1/3 of the Board of Fire Commissioner’s who were fired because we wouldn’t play along with what some of the firefighters or selectmen wanted. We bought our Chief some time but he too eventually decided that resigning was in his and his family’s best interest. He was one of the best and it’s a loss many in my Massachusetts town don’t understand.

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