We Can All Be Firefighters.

Candle fires. Chimney fires. Heating fires. Arson. Wildfires. All of these can cause damage to life, health and property. Fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined. 83% of civilian fire-related deaths occurred in the home. And civilians aren’t the only ones who bear the burden. In 2004, 117 firefighters were killed while on duty.

October 9-15 is National Fire Prevention Week. You already know many of the things you can do to practice fire safety. Here are a few:

* Make sure smoke detectors are properly installed and maintained. (Check the batteries when we set the clocks back.)
* Develop and practice a home fire escape plan.
* Use candles safely.
* Practice safe smoking (DON’T SMOKE!), safe cooking, and safe heating.

That will help you. But what about everyone else? Consider becoming a volunteer firefighter. Swarthmore, PA has a volunteer fire department and several of my collegemates were firefighters. Whether it was day or night, whether they were in class, at a party, or asleep in their dorm rooms, when the siren sounded, these dedicated and brave students (male and female, large and petite, of all ethnicities) would rush down the hill to the headquarters to risk their lives while serving their community, all without pay. I have the utmost respect for them.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, consider these resources:

–> The National Volunteer Fire Council is “a non-profit membership association representing the interests of the volunteer fire, EMS and rescue services. The NVFC serves as the information source regarding legislation, standards and regulatory issues.” They operate a national recruitment campaign. Call 1-800-FIRE-LINE or visit www.nvfc.org to learn more.

–> The US Fire Administration provides “training and educational opportunities for the Fire Service and allied organizations . Also available are fire statistics, public fire education campaign materials, and information on funding opportunities.” They also offer a Volunteer Incentive Program, maintain a list of fire-safe hotels and provide information on home fire safety.

–> VolunteerFD.org provides “a place for volunteer firefighters to come and share information with their fellow ‘unpaid professionals’. VolunteerFD.org is strictly for volunteer and combination departments and is built to address the unique issues that all volunteer departments share.”

Thank you to all the firefighters and other emergency personnel that help keep us safe, paid and volunteer. Be careful.

“People are tested by wealth, just as gold is tested by fire.” – Chinese proverb

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