In my last article, I discussed the loss of the community or brotherhood within our fire service. You may recall I was opposed to that type of change. But, let’s discuss change which I believe can serve us in a more positive manner.
Innovation. Intelligence. Evolution. Stephen Hawking said “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”. I’m not certain I totally agree with Dr. Hawking, but I have long challenged the Division’s statewide training partners to look at new and innovative ways to train our responders, to move away from the old ways of thinking in regards to how we train as well as the context of that training.
For example, when I began working for the Division in 1986, I was quite confident spalling of concrete and crazed glass in windows were indicators of an accelerated fire. It was the way we taught investigators to examine fire scenes. Now, nearly three decades later, we have realized spalling and crazing alone are not necessarily indicators of rapid fire development. We have learned temperature inversions during flashover and air flow patterns can influence the floor level fire damage we had seen in fire investigations.
We now know differently and thus we train differently. We have evolved.
In fire service, we have changed the way we fight fires. We have re-examined how we respond. We have added new levels of safety. We have found methods to continue our duties while limiting the risk to our firefighters and the public. Technology has helped, but the use of technology alone is not what will keep us safe. It will be our ability to adapt, grow and accept positive change which will drive fire service into a safer and more efficient posture.
I know most of you have heard me talk about dinosaurs and our need to get away from what I refer to as “dinosaur thinking”. We need to maintain an open mind when looking at the direction we are traveling. While change for the sake of change is never the correct path to take, change driven by solid science, best practices or experience based response is worthy of our consideration.
And what about the younger firefighters we are educating? A friend and educator told me “ridding ourselves of dinosaurs is not enough, we must also find those dinosaur eggs and stomp them out of existence”. I believe he was implying we are often guilty of passing along old, outdated and erroneous information to the firefighters we mentor, thus perpetuating the same “dinosaur thinking” we were taught.
Our State Fire Marshal’s office has certainly evolved. Hanging on the wall behind my desk is a copy of the legislation which created our Division in 1972. At that time, the Division was charged solely with the investigation of fires, specifically the crime of arson.
Today, the State Fire Marshal’s Office has grown to have statutory responsibility for the investigation of fire and fire-related crimes, explosives investigations, fire safety inspections, boiler and elevator inspections, amusement ride inspections, oversight of fireworks and the use of explosives, mutual aid responses, fire standard cigarette compliance and the training and certification of Missouri’s fire service and emergency responders.
We offer 20 certification levels accredited by not one, but two international accrediting bodies, IFSAC and ProBoard. We have issued over 81,000 individual certifications and we have been honored to establish partnerships with universities, colleges, fire service organizations and top-notch experts in the field of fire training. Working with those partners, we will be bringing on 10 new levels of certification over the next 16 months. These new certifications will serve to better train all levels of fire service thus increasing the safety of our responders and the security of the communities we serve.
As I write this article, individuals from across our state are participating in the inaugural course for Technical Rescue Core and Technical Rescue – Ropes I and II. Courses and certifications I believe will be widely popular with fire service by providing solid training and practical skills development.
Innovation. Intelligence. Evolution. Concepts we have chosen to accept and a position I will continue to promote as we launch forward from this point. Missouri’s fire service deserves nothing less than the best we can bring to the game. As your State Fire Marshal’s Office, we will strive to meet those challenges and obligations, just as I have challenged others to join us as we progress down that path.
One final topic; the Firefighters’ Memorial in Kingdom City: Brenda and I recently spent a Saturday morning at the memorial site. Brenda heard there was a need for some maintenance in the form of weeding and she promptly volunteered herself (and me) to tidy up the grounds.
The morning was spent between rain showers, crawling and kneeling as we pulled grass and weeds from the cracks between the bricks. I actually found it to be a peaceful time to reflect on the people and organizations whose names are engraved in the bricks and walls. I know I sometimes forget the memorial is there and the purpose it was erected; to memorialize our fallen friends and family members.
If you find yourself in the area, I suggest stopping by to visit the memorial and remember those who have sacrificed for our communities as well as those who have donated to build such a fine memorial. And if the mood strikes, feel free to pull a weed or two.
Acting State Fire Marshal