Waiting for help: We're all facing shortages

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Adam K. Thiel Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Waiting for help: We're all facing shortages

It's important to recognize extreme pressures our law enforcement colleagues are facing as they also weather fiscal storm

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: In another public safety setback for cash-strapped Detroit, a recently surfaced audio recording documents a crowd turning violent against area firefighters, who had to wait 13 minutes for a police response. All things considered, the police department said, the response time was "acceptable."

In my experience, waiting for law enforcement support during a fire or emergency incident is not an uncommon occurrence.

But clearly, as in this situation, 13 minutes is a LONG time to wait for help in an obviously dangerous and unstable environment.

While it's hard to understand why anyone would characterize such a response time as "acceptable," it's important to recognize the extreme pressures our law enforcement colleagues are facing as they also weather the fiscal storm that continues sweeping across the United States.

Just like us, police officers, deputy sheriffs, constables, detectives, special agents, and other law enforcement personnel go into harm's way, often alone, with limited staffing, (sometimes) spotty communications, and incomplete information. Unfortunately, too many of them (just like us) are injured or killed on the job each year.

If you haven't seen the statistics yet, 2011 was an especially bad year for law enforcement line-of-duty deaths. It seems likely that some of those tragedies are at least partially attributable to the budget cuts many law enforcement agencies have been forced to make through the sustained economic crisis.

It's important that we stick together, despite the hard times, with our law enforcement brothers and sisters. The way to do that is not by blaming them for public policy decisions they didn't make, but by trying to foster mutual respect and understanding about the difficult choices we all face.

It's vital to understand the capabilities and limitations of your law enforcement partners, and we certainly can't assume "they" have had it any better than "us" for the past few years. Perhaps, in some cases, we'll need to change our strategy/tactics with the realization that law enforcement help is going to take longer, or be lighter, than we've enjoyed in the past.

But always remember, as one of my former bosses (a veteran state trooper and later U.S. Marshal) said: "On a bad day, we all jump over the Jersey barriers together."

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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