Hats off to vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers

The Compass - - OPINION -

Fire Pre­ven­tion Week 2010 is be­ing ob­served this week, Oct. 3-9. The theme for this year is “Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with!”

Fire Pre­ven­tion Canada, which is the na­tional voice of fire pre­ven­tion and ed­u­ca­tion in Canada, was in­cor­po­rated in 1976.

Since that time, it has served a vi­tal role in in­creas­ing vis­i­bil­ity and aware­ness of fire pre­ven­tion na­tion­ally. A cou­ple of points de­serve con­sid­er­a­tion this week. First, this year’s spe­cific fo­cus on smoke alarms is apro­pos.

We would like to think that in the 21st cen­tury few, if any homes, are still smoke alarm free. Such de­vices do save lives and it is in ev­ery­body’s best in­ter­est to be as knowl­edge­able about them as pos­si­ble.

In­ci­den­tally, how con­ver­sant is the gen­eral pub­lic about smoke alarms?

The Fire Pre­ven­tion Week 2010 kit can be down­loaded at http://www.fiprecan.ca/pdf/FPW_Kit_English_Fi­nal _2010.pdf. It lists sev­eral ques­tions de­signed to test the reader’s knowl­edge about smoke alarms.

For ex­am­ple, what is the min­i­mum num­ber of smoke alarms needed in a home? What is the best place to lo­cate them? How long can they be ex­pected to last? How of­ten should they be tested and cleaned? What is the best way to test them?

Know­ing the in’s and out’s of smoke alarms can lit­er­ally mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. We ig­nore them at our peril.

Many home­own­ers have a wise prac­tice of chang­ing smoke alarm bat­ter­ies when they “spring ahead” and “fall back” each year. Even if the bat­ter­ies still have some life left in them, new ones should still be in­serted at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, to en­sure full ben­e­fit.

Sec­ond, it can hardly be de­nied that fire pre­ven­tion aware­ness is work­ing. House fires are be­com­ing more and more in­fre­quent. Yes, some fires are still be­ing caused by ne­glect and un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour. But thank­fully their in­ci­dence is de­creas­ing.

This is largely the re­sult of the con­certed ef­forts of groups like Fire Pre­ven­tion Canada to raise pub­lic aware­ness.

But the role played by fire pre­ven­tion teams ev­ery­where must not be un­der­es­ti­mated. The con­tri­bu­tion of lo­cal vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers can­not be over­stated.

There are roughly 127,000 or more vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers in Canada. All of them to­gether, lo­cated in com­mu­ni­ties from coast to coast, per­form an in­valu­able ser­vice by re­spond­ing to crises. From the north shore of Con­cep­tion Bay to the south shore of Trin­ity Bay, vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments are at the beck and call of peo­ple in dis­tress, whether be­cause of fire or other emer­gen­cies. This came through loud and clear dur­ing and af­ter Hur­ri­cane Igor.

We do well to doff our hats to them for their faith­ful and self­less ser­vice.

Iron­i­cally, be­cause they are so con­sci­en­tious about do­ing their job, vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers may well be work­ing them­selves out of a job.

While this ap­pears to be the case, we must not al­low our­selves to be­come lack­adaisi­cal in our ef­forts to preach fire pre­ven­tion or in­ured to the fac­tors that do in­deed lead to fires. To be fore­warned is to be fore­armed. Nowhere is this more per­ti­nent than in fire pre­ven­tion. Dear edi­tor,

No longer do the tides flow in New­found­land, as in the time of EJ Pratt, “ with a lusty stroke of life” run­ning “ within the sluices of men’s hearts.”

No longer do winds blow, as in the time of my fa­ther’s youth, “ with a fa­mil­iar breath hold­ing a part­ner­ship with life, res­o­nant with the hopes of spring pun­gent with the airs of har­vest.”

In­stead, to­day our her­itage in­dus­try has van­ished into the mantra of mora­to­rium, whose pre­miss blames us for the de­struc­tion of stocks and pun­ishes us

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