Except for those who are affected directly, either through unhappy circumstance or because they are family, friends or neighbours, fire department volunteers mostly go unnoticed.
In reality, however, they are the unsung heroes of our communities.
Every time firefighters go to a fire call-out, there is the potential for injury or worse. Undoubtedly, they go into these hazardous situations because of their sense of duty and because they want to make a difference in the lives of the folks who live in their communities.
Between those call-outs, however, is where the real work is being done to make our communities safer.
Volunteer firefighters train on a weekly basis to ensure they protect themselves and their teammates from injury in firefighting scenarios.
They also take numerous courses to learn the best way to deal with emergency situations.
All volunteer firefighters have to complete the British Columbia Structure Firefighter Competency and Training Playbook.
The concepts are designed to ensure that appropriate minimum levels of training are established which will make firefighters effective and safe on the fire ground, while being realistic, affordable and attainable.
Volunteer firefighters must complete these course – classroom and practical to continue working at the fire hall.
More and more, these volunteers are being relied upon to be first responders at medical emergency call-outs, and some departments are training to become extrication experts at motor-vehicle incidents.
Behind the scene, however, there are the folks who support the fire department in a number of different ways. The most important chore is their fundraising efforts to upgrade facilities, trucks and other equipment.
We owe all of these folks whether they battle the blazes or work tirelessly to fill the coffers.
We should take the time to tell them we appreciate everything they do for us, whether it’s through a simple statement of gratitude when we greet them, or by supporting them as fire department society volunteers, or shelling out a few dollars at all of their fundraisers.
We suspect, however, our firefighters would appreciate it the most if we practised fire safety not only this week during National Fire Prevention Week, but also every day of the year.
This week is National Fire Prevention Week – Oct. 7-13.
“This year’s theme is: ‘Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware – fire can happen anywhere.’
The goal is to raise awareness about three simple steps that can help people reduce their risk and be better prepared in the event of a fire:
• Look for places fire can start. Take a good look around your home to identify potential fire hazards and remove them. One of the most important things we can do to protect our families is to draw up and practise using a family fire evacuation plan.
• Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm. You could have only minutes to safely escape once the smoke alarm sounds. Go to your outside meeting place, which should be a safe distance from the home and where everyone should know to meet.
We should also ensure we have extinguishers and smoke detectors, and get into the habit of checking the smoke alarm batteries once a month.
• Learn two ways out of each room, and make sure all doors and windows leading outside can open easily and are free of clutter.
For more information on fire safety tips, visit: www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/firecom/pubed/fpw.htm.