We have given thanks to firefighters for all they do to help keep our communities safe.
But maybe the time for just platitudes is over. This might be the time to show our gratitude with something more than just words.
We ask a lot of our firefighters, probably even more now than we have in the last 40 or 50 years. But we think we have good reason, because it is known that firefighters are now very highly trained to take on a wide variety of situations, from structural, confined-space and open-field fires to providing emergency medical care and support in active-shooter or terrorism events.
How much does our respect for their work change, positively or negatively, if we knew the challenges our community’s bravest deal with on a daily and weekly basis? Based on the results of a recent needs assessment survey of U.S. fire departments, there are some clues as to what they need besides an audible “thank you” and a handshake.
The NFPA, every five years, puts out a U.S. Needs Assessment Survey of the U.S. Fire Service to all fire departments in America to get information about resources, staffing and whether there are gaps in any area and looks at areas of strength and weakness in each area.
If you are looking for something to give as a Christmas present to your local fire station, check out this list of findings for some ideas. After all, no one has figured out how monetize an audible “thank you” yet.
The 2015 survey results were released recently, and the findings are quite sobering. Here are the highlights (lowlights?):
- Nearly 75 percent (18 of every 25) of fire departments surveyed said that their PPE inventory is at least 10 years old, which is up from about 63 percent surveyed in 2010.
- Nearly 7 in 10 surveyed said their self-contained breathing equipment was more than 10 years old; only 55 percent of fire departments reported that in 2010.
- Nearly half of departments admitted that they have not provided formal training to their firefighters who get involved in structural fires. About 46 percent of departments admitted that lack of training five years earlier.
- About 43 percent of fire stations are at least 40 years old; in 2010, just a third of all departments reported such firehouse ages.
- Just more than 1 in 4 fire departments say they have an active health and fitness program in place; that is down from 3 in 10 five years earlier, which means it went from bad to worse; and
- At least one piece of encouraging news: about 43 percent of all engines and water-pumpers are at least 15 years old; that is actually down from slightly more than half in 2010 which reported such ages.
What is supposed to be a modern firefighter, when it is working with not-so-modern equipment, and a lack of formal training and formal fitness training? Maybe it’s even more amazing the work these men and women do for us when their jobs, already difficult, are not made easier by modern techniques and equipment.
They deserve even more of our respect that we can imagine. But they also deserve more than they are currently given, so those of you who are taxpayers in U.S. cities and counties, make a plea to your elected officials to ensure that your local fire department has all the modern resources and adequate staffing it needs to meet the demands of your community. It’s the least you can do to thank them for their sacrifice.