National Fire Chief

The fourth edition of the First Due Blog Carnival asks how participants would hypothetically fill the role of Administrator of the United States Fire Administration. Participants also had to state your first year’s agenda and three priorities. So, hypothetically speaking, should the President hit me up on Facebook or Twitter, here is what I would attempt to deliver.

The three priorities I would identify in my role as Administrator are Firefighter Health, Firefighter Education and Fire Service Awareness.

Firefighter Health
Numerous times each year the broad statement of ‘100 firefighters die each year’ is pressed upon the nation’s firefighters and the general public. While it is not implied, the number is often left to be associated with the fire attack. A closer look reveals that the majority are health related. To raise the awareness that physical health equates survivability the USFA will need to identify both good and bad physical and medical health practices. We would search out positive stories of firefighters who had made the changes necessary to live a healthy lifestyle and promote them. Combined efforts with the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA would promote the image of a healthy firefighter to the general public by television commercials, magazine advertisements and public appearances. A partnership with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness would identify healthy firefighters and incorporate their positive fitness choices into the council’s message directed toward the country’s youth.

In other words, we will shame you into being a healthier firefighter.

Firefighter Education
Today’s firefighter education is merely initial training followed by annual re-certification of one means or another. Elective training and education is dependent upon department organization, opportunity for advancement and sub-cultural influences. Higher academia is often disregarded over experience. Interaction between fire officers and the media and local politicians often reveal varying levels of competency in public relations. The USFA will need to welcome, encourage and teach a greater reliance on the benefits higher education. An academically well-rounded firefighter and fire officer can present a more professional message in multiple media to a widely varied audience. In addition to the immediate benefits proven on the job, higher education (fire and academic) can translate into a greater public reception.

In other words, we will shame you into being a smarter firefighting.

Fire Service Awareness
Lately, more than ever perhaps, the fire service has experienced an embarrassing share of ‘black eyes’ and character injury at the hands of its own members. Firefighters face greater battles to gain public support, and funding, when the front page story of a firehouse closed down is followed by a page two story of a firefighter charged with a felony. In order to regain public trust and support, America’s fire chiefs need to get their houses in order. It is foolish to think that yearly appearances during Fire Prevention Week, Daylight Savings Time and every September 11th will lure the public to admire you and support you. The other 356 days of the year your department is competing for good press and if your firefighters are healthy and smart, then the USFA should be showcasing you to the nation. To do this the USFA should create regional representatives who would be continually seeking out the best firefighters, fire officers and departments and promote their success using all the social media and networking means available.

In other words, we’ll shame you into being a more ethical firefighter.

Yeah, I know it’s slightly Draconian.

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