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Firefighter Safety: Use Your Initiative
by Billy Hayes

How 'fire porn' hurts the fire service

Until prevention becomes as much of a turn on as fire porn, we will not fulfill our mission to protect lives and property

By Billy Hayes

Do you prefer prevention or porn?

For the record, I'm not talking about the kind of porn that will get you fired if you watch it at work. I'm referencing "fire porn."

You know, the exciting stuff you see on the cover of almost every fire service trade publication, YouTube, and most fire and emergency services websites: structures on fire, helmets melting, gear smoking, lots of destruction.

Let's face it, it sells.

This was recently confirmed by a friend who's an editor of one of those publications; he said that he would gladly replace those photos with prevention images if I can assure him that he won't lose subscribers.

To his defense, we all know that if we start replacing fire porn with photos of firefighters installing smoke alarms or car seats, conducting pre-fire plans or company inspections, or even teaching a CPR class, the fire service would go into shock.

I mean really, who wants to watch a video about how to conduct risk assessment in their local communities? Boring!

We know we would rather watch a dash cam or amateur video of a structure fire and debate strategy and tactics and talk about how that department should have been more aggressive.

The paradox
A paradox is a statement that contains conflicting ideas or concepts. It's similar to having a policy to have only the best gear money can buy, but showing up with only enough cash for what's on sale.

"To protect lives and property" is a paradox in the fire service. Our words say one thing, but our actions say otherwise.

Most in the fire service believe that only occurs when dispatched at the point where lives and property are being or are already lost. It's a culture that has evolved for decades. Ah, the good old "culture" word. How did that happen?

Culture evolves when values and behaviors become the situational norm. When uninterrupted, those norms have validation from where the values came from.

This is the process, or cycle, of cultural development. In other words, if nothing changes, we can plan on hearing, "It's always been done this way."

Marketing the job
So here we are at the crossroads. Can we break this cycle? Can we change the culture of embracing our mission? Can we change behaviors and values to prevent the paradox from occurring?

As I was attending the National Volunteer Fire Council conference in South Carolina, I saw the paradox in action. While grabbing dinner, I ran into a young man covered in fire tattoos and sporting an FDNY T-shirt.

I simply asked him if he was in the brotherhood and where he worked. He was a volunteer who had just recently relocated from Pennsylvania and was looking for a career position in the Myrtle Beach area.

We chatted for a few minutes, and he told me of his volunteer companies in Pennsylvania and how his department was used for mutual aid because they were very aggressive. I asked if he had paid any attention to the NIST studies on thermal attack.

The young man said no. So I dug a little deeper and asked if he has ever read the book "Fire Command" by Chief Brunacini. He replied with, "Who?"

I also asked if he had read either one of the "America Burning" publications. "No."

So, I wished him well in his endeavors, gave him my card and headed back to my hotel.

The old guard
It rang clear to me that this talented young man may be headed for the paradox like so many others in our profession. Visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads have been replaced with the grandeur of flames through the roof or pushing out the windows, making an aggressive interior attack, or dragging a victim out.

I know, there are those who say that's what we get paid to do. I've seen and heard it said by some of the "fire porn stars" that the fire service only exists for suppression.  

I've even had an operations chief tell me that we get paid to die for property just like we do for people.

I do not believe that to be true.

There is a time and place for that. We need to be tactically trained and prepared to do that as needed and when called upon.

We need the bravery to carrying on the tradition of saving lives, as so many before us who didn't have the luxury of the resources and technology we have today.

Action items
But, if we say we that our motto is to protect lives and property, then we need to embrace that from the prevention standpoint, make it a priority and find a way to make it sexy.

The fire service leadership needs to step up. It needs to happen at the U.S. Fire Administration, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and in every state and local fire service organization.

That also means changing the fire porn we watch. Slowly, we need to begin assimilating our fire service members by adding more community risk reduction and prevention presentations to conference shows; by adding more columns, articles, and photos to our trade publications; and by training new members that preventing the incident from occurring is our foremost mission — that we respond when failure in prevention has occurred.

We need those in the fire service to be "turned on" by prevention.

The other paradox
Another component of this paradox is we have to get water on it as quickly as we can, and I agree. Don't fire sprinklers help accomplish that?

Yet, the fire service has not fully embrace residential fire sprinklers. So where does the "protect lives and property" play into this?

In fact, we have even allowed the public to play into the paradox because we haven't invested time to educate them to the importance of residential fire sprinklers. Hence, we find the public, in many cases, are in opposition and aligned with the home-builders' associations.

Although the total number of fires are decreasing, those we have are burning differently due to construction and contents. And, we have many other things we respond to.

It's not sexy
We should address injury prevention, health-related issues, environmental issues that we are the first to arrive, and so much more. But our attention in prevention seemingly only applies to fire, which I understand is low frequency but high risk.

I know that I will draw criticism from this column. It's not popular, it's not sexy, and it goes against what so many joined our profession to do because of the way we have marketed the job.

Please don't misinterpret my message. I support suppression. But shouldn't that suppression begin through prevention and not just when destruction is under way?

How long can we exist in the paradox and how can we transition from "fire porn stars" to "fire and injury prevention stars?"

The bigger question is why do we have to choose? Why can't we be both?

Be safe.

About the author

Billy D. Hayes has served as the Director of Public Information and Community Affairs for the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department and as the Chief of Fire Services for the City of Riverdale, Ga., and is a past-president of the Metro Atlanta Fire Chiefs Association. He is a graduate of Georgia Military College and the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. He additionally served as the Advocate Program Manager for the Everyone Goes Home campaign through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, where he was also a State and Region IV Advocate. Billy frequently writes and speaks on the topics of firefighter safety and fire prevention. In this column series, he will be outlining the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives – and what they mean for you and your department. He can be contacted via e-mail at Billy.Hayes@firerescue1.com.



Comments
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Derek Dinges Derek Dinges Monday, July 21, 2014 9:11:14 AM I agree with you Billy, but as long as fire burns, there will be people filming it, and we will run in. Prevention is a must and things do need to change, but until money is not component of fire prevention things will not change. We can talk and preach fire sprinklers until we are blue in the face, but until the costs go down they will only be an expensive option for people. "fire porn" can be used for training. The district I work for doesn't see a lot of fire, so in order to learn fire behaviour and how to read smoke and see how others do things, I watch it. The majority of my brothers and sisters and know about and preach prevention but fire is always going to happen. Now taking that to what we do a majority of the time, medical, we have gotten more people to use seatbelts and monitor their blood pressure etc. but we still run on people all the time who have accidents and medical emergencies. We don't see "medical porn" on youtube.
Gerald Wyhopen Jr Gerald Wyhopen Jr Monday, July 21, 2014 9:28:47 AM He makes it sound with his paradox theory that we scream "to protect lives and property" but are the ones running around causing the threats against lives and property. His take on the fire service is only one sided. Majority of people entering the fire service want to fight fires and do other rescue work like I do. Fire prevention is not my thing. Thats why they're are others out there in the fire service that occupy those positions. Its like war. You don't send a solider to do a politicians job. You are wrong that "fire porn" must goto the way side to bolster fire prevention. I would be with you if the public were the ones with the "fire porn" obsession burning their houses down just to film our profession. The last time I checked at a fire where there were no smoke detectors wasnt because the home owner was to intrested in watching his belongings burn because of "fire porn" it was because of his complacency of not following or the absence of fire prevention at school, work or tv. Write an article on how ones fire prevention bureau or the lack there of should be bolstered and double their efforts on spreading the word in every school, business and household.
Earthy Green Earthy Green Monday, July 21, 2014 10:46:02 AM Is this is why the fire service is the way it his now, change is good, but this crap is getting ridiculous. Any civilian can install a car seat or smoke alarm. Last time I checked we (the fire service) are still the only ones that put out fires. Not a job that just any civilian can do, it takes a well trained group of firemen. And by fireman I dont mean a civilian wearing a uniform with a fire dept. patch on it. Knock this crap off and lets get the fire service back.
Jon Darryle Marsh Jon Darryle Marsh Monday, July 21, 2014 10:47:19 AM Billy, you always have my admiration in the thought you give in attracting one's attention for the good of the fire service no matter the issue; and yes, I'm sure no matter how well intended, there will be those who find your efforts boring, too costly, and above them to even read and understand. Your words stirred a recent memory of the retirement speech made by Dr. Burt Clark as he stepped down from the NFA after 44 years in the fire service..."Our proudest moment is when we accept the fact that Fire Prevention, smoke alarms, and fire sprinklers will save more lives and property from fire than we ever will...Our supreme success is achieved when there is no injury, or death, or loss from fire." Now how could that be possible without FIRE PEVENTION ? I applaud your efforts Billy and you have my number should you need any help in keeping fire prevention alive.
Jim Kitchens Jim Kitchens Monday, July 21, 2014 12:22:11 PM YOU nailed the attitude of our departments today , they don't want to do the dirty work such as prevention Great article !!
Rick Lagtag Rick Lagtag Monday, July 21, 2014 12:34:53 PM While fire prevention is important let’s put things in perspective. Right now most departments cannot staff 4 man engine companies, in in many cases 3. Communities are bailing on the fire service when it comes to increase revenue because they don't want to pay for it, the irony is, they will not give up there 500 dollar cell phones with their 900 a year cell phone bills. Prevention is important part of the job if you belong to a paid department. Most volunteer departments are worried about getting enough people to show up this week. The public has to decide what they want and are willing to pay for. I have been in this business almost 40 yrs. and have never seen the attitude towards the fire service as bad as it is today. My first priority is to respond to calls, everything after that is extra. The public has decided that’s what they want. Love to prevent fires but the days of well-staffed prevention a bureau is over for now.
Dean Melanson Dean Melanson Monday, July 21, 2014 12:56:11 PM When we communicate we must first try to assess our audience and then send the appropriate message to that audience. The Fire Service is not an all inclusive audience. We have a large number of sub-groups clumped under the heading of Fire Service, from Admin, Code Enforcement, Pub Ed, Tactical Firefighting, Strategic Firefighting, Investigation, Training, Apparatus Repair, Technical Rescue, etc., etc.,. Each publication, article, post etc. must hit the target audience with the target message. Many boots on the ground firefighters aren't interested in the FPO or Pub Ed career path, and as such those publication won't be read by them - even if you trick them by putting a sexy fire photo on the cover. More correctly, we need to embrace our missions of fire prevention and public education and make an effort to develop career paths within our organization. How many places have these positions viewed as a place for older members to move into, or a mandatory career stop along the path to move up. If we get it right the magazines will come as there will be the audience for it.
Robert Avsec Robert Avsec Monday, July 21, 2014 2:39:33 PM Great article and very thought-provoking, Billy D. Hayes, as is you MO! I can see from the early comments listed prior to mine that you've had the desired affect! Put me in the "camp" which fully agrees with your position and supports it 100%. I really feel sorry for that young firefighter that you spoke with because his odds of becoming an old firefighter are nil right now unless he becomes a student of the profession like Christine Sarracino. The body of knowledge for firefighting has always been great and only continues to get larger as we learn more from the fire behavior testing and research being done by USFA, UL, and NIST.
Smooth Bore Tip Smooth Bore Tip Monday, July 21, 2014 3:38:25 PM No disrespect, but I think this article is a paradox in and of itself. The so called "fire porn" is of tremendous value, as both a training and marketing tool. It's definitely a two way street.
Mike Tucker Mike Tucker Monday, July 21, 2014 7:20:06 PM Spot on Chief! Until the fire service figures out that the real saving of lives come from prevention we will ALWAYS be fighting an uphill battle. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy a working fire, but the reality is that if you rely on the last big fire to justify why your department exists you will always be on a slippery slope that someone else has greased. That dog don't hunt! In the golf world it can be equated to "drive for show, but putt for dough."
Mike Legeros Mike Legeros Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:16:33 AM "Fire porn" is exciting because suppression activities are exciting. They're a physical and mental challenge that's world's apart from the proactive activities of "fire prevention." It's Venus to Mars, when compared to such things as plans review, code enforcement, building inspections, life safety education, et al. There's a reason that station walls are adorned with dramatic photos of blazing buildings, versus, say, pictures of the buildings that didn't burn. Or the room and contents that were extinguished by a sprinkler. Or... You get the idea. Heard a talk a couple years in Baltimore that stayed with me. Two firefighters and educators made the case that the fire service needs to be identified as more than just the trusty fire extinguisher that's hanging on the wall. Alas, I don't remember enough to articulate even a minor explanation of what they meant. But I think thinking ahead, technology and innovation will compete for the fires that firefighters love to fight. Improvements in materials, detection, automatic suppression, etc. What will that mean for the profession as a whole? Better minds than mind can tackle that one.
Shan Raffel Shan Raffel Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:37:07 AM Billy I think that your article is courageous and thought provoking. There needs to be a healthy balance between prevention and suppression. You only have to look at the failure of the “modernisation” agendas pushed in New Zealand in the 1990’s and the UK in the 2000’s to see that an increased focus on prevention cannot compensate for a reduction in fire response resources. I believe that the true agenda has been a politically driven excuse to spend less money on the fire and rescue service. This is like saying that if we spend more money on diplomacy that we can reduce our defence budget. Or if we spend more money on crime prevention that we can reduce our spending on policing. Nice in theory, but very naive. A balanced approach embraces effective fire prevention programs that can actually influence the behaviour of the “at risk” target group. This does NOT however justify a reduction in fire suppression training or capability. A firefighter that has the safety of the community at heart will ensure that they do every practical measure to prevent fires, while ensuring that they are equipped, trained and fully prepared to respond to the inevitable events that are beyond our best attempts of prevention.
Anthony Vera Anthony Vera Tuesday, July 22, 2014 7:42:13 AM "Fire Porn"? really? Honestly, it's getting rather tiresome reading article after article about how we in the Fire Service...who absolutely love our chosen careers...are too aggressive, should fight fire in a "smart fashion", shouldn't be placed in harm's way, etc. It's almost as we're being vilified for actually wanting to do our jobs! A job inherently rife with peril and risk, no matter how much your ilk now wants to dissect every second of it into neat, safe, predictable scientific equations, where you can plot out everything from the safety of a command center! No sir! you are wrong in your thinking! I didn't choose my profession to be a teacher! I joined to fight fire! Not to kill myself, but rather make the quickest yet safest (as the situation dictates) fire attack possible, even at the risk of my well-being! And now THIS article about "Fire Porn"?? As if somehow my desire to view fire, how it reacts, how smoke patterns change, etc., is something to be disparaged?! How dare you sir! To sharpen my point, I hadn't join the Marine Corps to paint in watercolors either! I joined to fight.....to make a difference no matter what the danger! Our job wasn't to TEACH peace....but rather keep and enforce it! When conflict came around, we did so as aggressively and prepared as ever! Did we learn from watching "War Porn" sir?! I contend that the Fire Service is the same! Although Fire Prevention is a noble concept to be sure, how many more years do you think we have before we "prevent" ourselves out of a career?! No sir! I submit to you, that educating the public in SURVIVING fires is the perfect balance to keeping our citizens alive, while ensuring that we have a Fire Service many years down the line for the rest of us who are NOT retired, and sitting comfortable behind a desk, writing articles about how we should all be safe and kept from injury at all costs!! And it still holds a lot of public relation appeal to the residents we serve! If you wish to convert our job to be as safe as a Teacher's, then you should expect to be paid like one!! Anthony Vera Hollywood Professional Firefighters Firefighter/General Secretary/PRO
Damian Lee Damian Lee Tuesday, July 22, 2014 8:18:34 AM Brother, don't put too much energy towards an opinion, as eloquent as it may be stated. This person makes a point, but not a very strong one. I gather that he's concerned that we're all just fire-eyed smoke-eaters that either aren't taught enough about fire prevention, or just don't care. I disagree...plain and simple. We're taught plenty, but like you wrote, it's not what I signed up for. The citizens you protect sleep better at night knowing you're a guy that knows the dangers of that 'fire porn" we see so much of, and are still willing to fight it. Fire prevention is an essential facet of the fire service, but in my opinion, it's not what needs to be emphasized on the front lines. Firefighters like fighting fire...let us like it, you douche.
Olivia Clayton Olivia Clayton Tuesday, July 22, 2014 9:18:21 AM Thank you Bill for your wonderful much needed article. The profession is indeed changing and fire departments everywhere need to keep up and start attracting and hiring qualified professionals equally interested in prevention and suppression. Let's eradicate the current motto "150 years of tradition unimpeded by progress".
Billy D. Hayes Billy D. Hayes Tuesday, July 22, 2014 9:38:39 AM I would like to thank everyone who has responded thus far. I appreciate all of your insights, positions, and points of view. While I've been called names and received hate mail, I need to respond to this thread because the over-riding theme of the column was missed. First, I was not excited about the title. It was not my selection and I don't think it paints a very fair picture of my article. In fact, most can't even get past the title to read the article before their opinion is formed. That is something I will need to address with the editor. I'm not sure it may have had the same impact in the fire service today as it did if the title were different, but I'm not sure it would have been taken a little out of context as it did either. Second, it seems so many are missing what I have said. I never said the "fire porn" should be eliminated, I said that we should begin incorporating, acutally assimilating our members, to more photos and videos of prevention and risk reduction into our magazine covers and conferences. I'm pretty sure that I never said eliminating "fire porn" will solve the problem; however, if that is all we ever see, that is all we will ever believe. Ben Franklin said insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. If we as a fire service don't push fire and injury prevention in whatever mediums of mass communication that we can, then "protecting lives and property" will only be once 9-1-1 is called which is often too late. And I know there will be those who aregue that point as well. Third, I DO NOT believe that we only exist for fire suppression. In fact, I have seen many comments by some who have restated that but in the same breathe say we respond to every other call under the sun. Case in point. However, I did say there was a time and place of when we lay it on the line. We need the brave firefighters who LOVE the job. We need our citizens to know that there is no other choice when they have a fire. But we should not go to work every shift waiting for that moment to arise, instead, we should focus on how to eliminate that situation from happening, but when it does, be the ones who are there for them. Fourth, I asked the question how do we make it sexy? The National Enquirer is one of the all time leading selling newspapers because it gets attention, just as I said in my column. In fact, I said that the fire porn sells and I know it, heck, I LOVE the "fire porn" myself. As I said, it is exciting, stimulating, and heroic in many cases. I even asked the question, why can't we be fire porn and fire prevention stars all at the same time? Lastly, I made a comment about fire sprinklers being the fastest way we can get water on the fire in terms of suppression. Oddly enough, there were little to no comments about the need for fire service and public advocacy for sprinklers, only the dismay of me discrediting the fire porn. In most videos and photos on the Internet, a majority of the usage of this material is for the brunt of jokes and criticism, not training, just read the blogs. I know, somebody will argue that. For those who do use it as such, I applaud you and publicly apologize and ask that you share that training and incident analysis for the rest of us to use to make us better. The point of this article is to bring awareness that fire and injury prevention should be the mission of the fire service. If not, then let's simply add "to protect life and property, but only once you call us" to the motto, and baby I'm fine with that. Well, not really. Nevertheless, our business is changing. Yes we will always be the ones who respond when fire occurs. All I've asked is for us to find a way to find every aspect of the profession "sexy" and not just suppression. One final thought, I would ask you read the column again. I know there will still be some who disagree, but I think if you get past the title, think about the content, maybe you can see the point, agree or diagree. I also find it interesting that I've received many emails from those who are supportive of the content, but are afraid to speak out on the thread to avoid persecution. I've encouraged them to have a voice as this dialogue is healthy for all of us, whether you agree or diagree. We know that people join this business to fight fire. Could we just be supportive that prevention is critical in what we do? Fire will occur and it is unfair to think it won't. Human behavior, true accidents, and nature will provide us that opportunity. Again, thanks for reading the column and this response.
David Forrest Peterson David Forrest Peterson Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:47:07 AM Courageous column Billy! And, one that makes sense on so many levels! We should all recall what the Father of the American Fire Service once wrote: Benjamin Franklin said "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Prevention is the key, however, instead of trying to make "prevention porn" we would do well to better intertwine prevention with suppression, and a few other things, if we are truly being true to our mission of saving lives and property. Our changing culture would then be a "fire triangle" that puts these 3 components on equal footing yet all interfacing and working together; 1. Fire Suppression with short response times, 2. Fire Prevention that focuses on code development and enforcement, and 3. Public Education. While many progressive fire departments successfully juggle these priorities now it is definitely not mainstream among our nation's 33,000 fire departments. Billy stated that he supports suppression activities and that is an important part of the whole, especially as long as we build with, and use, combustible materials, but, let's face it, prevention will never be sexy. Necessary? Yes!
Michael Teague Michael Teague Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:22:39 PM Billy, you win for most misunderstood article of 2014. I pretty sure that nowhere in the article did you say that we should stop focusing on suppression yet after reading the comments below you would thing you suggested selling all our pumpers and buying sedans so we can go around and do fire inspections or install smoke detectors. Here are some truths. The United States has one of the highest death rates from fire in the industrialized world. Fire cost to the US economy is in excess of 300 billion per year. 100 firefighters die and 80,000 are injured each year. Fire prevention efforts, not suppression, have reduced the per capita deaths in US over the last 30 years. The introduction of smoke detectors in residential structures caused the greatest decrease in fire related deaths. No amount of fire suppression efforts will make a significant dent in the number of fire related deaths. Most people who die in fires are dead prior to the arrival of the fire department. This is especially true in today's modern construction methods and the current furnishing. No amount of fire prevention or community risk reduction efforts will eliminate fires. We will never prevent ourselves out of a fire suppression job. Even enacting sprinkler regulations will only place sprinklers in new buildings. There are plenty of legacy building around to burn. I'm pretty sure that most of us who joined the fire service, didn't join so we could go install smoke detectors or do fire prevention inspections but these things are becoming part of the job. These changes will be fought just like EMS was 40 years ago but eventually the public will expect these things just like they expect us to respond to medical aids. BTW, I wonder what the public would think of a their firefighters saying they are not going to do everything they can to prevent fires. They want fires to burn in their jurisdiction so they can do what they enjoy. Don't get me wrong. I love my job and fighting fires is why I joined up but if could go the rest of my career without seeing a kid killed in a fire because we prevented that fire then I'm good with it. Those of you that wish for fires to burn in your town border on sociopathic.
Bill Baker Bill Baker Tuesday, July 22, 2014 1:02:36 PM I agree that prevention is the key to the future of the fire service. I went to a grade school principle and asked if I could go from class to class and talk about fire prevention and she Tod me that, " that wasn't real teaching and the kids had real things to learn about". This is sad but it is the way that a lot of people think. Great article Billy.
Donald Catenacci Donald Catenacci Tuesday, July 22, 2014 1:09:49 PM There is no doubt that fire prevention is a vital component of the fire service. But I find it silly to call articles, pictures, and video of fires or firefighters in action as "fire porn." I know you were attempting to make a point with a controversial title. Honestly, I almost looked right past this article because of the title alone. Why you might ask? Well truthfully the people you hoped to reach stopped reading after the first paragraph and those that agree kept reading. So what did it accomplish? The truth is YES, we need to embrace fire prevention, yes we need to embrace residential sprinklers, car seat installlations, smoke detector installations, and free battery replacements. But at the, same time I want energetic, enthusiastic, always learning firefighters. How do they learn? Obviously training is crucial, but reading the trade journals, watching online videos, reading and commenting on fire related forums, can expose firefighters to new concepts, new techniques, and new equipment. The 2 can co-exist and do many places. My career FD had an inspection division but we also did company inspections and company pre-planning. We also did car seat installs. Personally I have recommended to anyone that tells me they are building a home that they should install sprinklers. Ask any firefighter thst knows me and they will tell you I am an aggressive firefighter, but I am not a suicidal banzai charge firefighter. Safety is important of course, but so is the lives of the citizens we protect. Prevention yes, but not at the expense of suppression trained and equipped firefighters?
Bobby Eugene Bobby Eugene Tuesday, July 22, 2014 1:31:04 PM Hands down the dumbest article I ever (started) to read.
Jeff Moss Jeff Moss Tuesday, July 22, 2014 2:02:57 PM I agree with many comments. Prevention is vitally important and we are heavily involved with such at our department. The missing link is the value of the videos and pictures in the training aspect. I use them heavily to promote strategy and tactics discussions. This helps future and present officers improve their decision making ability. On another note, I am certainly glad I don't work with a chief who believes in sacrificing lives to save property. What book, class, or experience did he derive that notion from? I guess he hasn't had to tell a spouse and children that their father died to save some boards and sheetrock. Not so brilliant in my book.
Eagle Mountain Promotions Eagle Mountain Promotions Tuesday, July 22, 2014 2:27:41 PM A great article that accurately punched a couple of buttons AND popped a balloon or two along the way. I continue to be an avid proponent of aggressive firefighting when necessary as opposed to just "surround and drown", and also am guilty of some fire "porn" now and then. Not everyone in a targeted audience is as sophisticated as another might be sometimes, and the public we're paid to serve -- and educate -- includes both penthouses and trailer parks. I can certainly relate to the incidence of "that's the way we've always done it" when I see those assigned public education duty simply following the path most take and buy whatever amount of "your logo here" calendars, plastic fire hats, and junior firemen badges until the budget runs out. Check the box - Public Education covered. Rarely does a department look at the public ed and fire prevention responsibilities and tailor their activities and educational materials to the community they specifically serve, i.e. single family dwellings, high rise residential, low income housing, etc. I'd like to see more of a trend toward Fire and BURN Prevention Education that automatically enlarges the scope of messaging that can be addressed. Good intentions such as those expressed in the article need to be backed up by allocating more of the annual budget to spedific and targeted marketing objectives. By including Burn Prevention, departments can not only increase the target audience and scope of messaging, but stay on topic the whole time.
Cris Dahlgren Cris Dahlgren Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:35:53 PM Have this problem in our town. We have a gamewell system and I am constantly battling people that tamper with it. Cable lineman and tree trimmers. "I didn't know it still worked!" Well you just put all the connected businesses at risk. Not as glamorous as a 6 alarm fire.
John Blaze Erlandson John Blaze Erlandson Tuesday, July 22, 2014 6:36:27 PM I watch a lot of fire videos. It is mainly because of the rare occasion to work one let alone be first in on the nozzle. I watch everything from smoke, flow path, fire behavior and actions of fire personnel on scene to name a few. I don't know about the "fire porn" thing but I think a lot can be learned from fire videos.
Alex Nathanson Alex Nathanson Wednesday, July 23, 2014 5:59:16 AM Earthy Green, I have been a Firefighter (and worked up through the ranks) for 34 years. After suffering 3 brain tumors (Florida does not have a Cancer policy), I had to come off the line. No one enjoyed going into a fire more than me, but now I am in Fire Prevention and do Arson Investigations. The point is, if we can save more lives before they are lost, by having better and stronger fire Prevention Standards, then we save more lives and property. Does this mean that Firefighters and Paramedics aren't important any more? Hell no ! My job is also to make sure that Hydrants for my brothers (and sisters) are working, and that standpipes and FDC's are checked and tested annually. A lot of my job, is to follow up when nuisance alarms are keeping crews up all night or from making unnecessary trips to nuisance alarms. Don't forget that responding to calls is almost as dangerous as fighting the fires our Companies respond to. So don't think that Fire Prevention is trying to take away from the Importance of our Companies who put their lives on the line every day. Our jobs are to support that function and prevent people (and firefighters) from dying in fires. Its not about installing Smoke Detectors (although we do that too). We are not your enemy, but your brother and sister in the Fire Service. Supporting each other's role is imperative to keeping our selves, friends, family members and the Public Safe. Respectfully, Alex
Chuck Shivery Chuck Shivery Wednesday, July 23, 2014 4:33:03 PM The NFPA Journal is one important periodical for fire and life safety professionals, including firefighters. While fire training is very important, as a profession (this includes volunteers), we need to stay abreast of new developments in fire and life safety, including sprinklers, campus fire safety, and public education. As an NFPA member in the Health Care Section, I have definitely benefited in my career as a firefighter.
Andy Frank Andy Frank Thursday, July 24, 2014 4:34:35 AM if its not the porn that gets you fired why do you need to use that word in your headline?
Bryan Wells Bryan Wells Thursday, July 24, 2014 7:14:11 AM There is a place and time for these videos.I feel that some of these videos are a good learning tool.But like I said there is a time and place for these videos there have been alot of department that have got in alot of trouble with these videos because of hippa and other things.
Michael Mayers Michael Mayers Thursday, July 24, 2014 9:29:22 AM No criticism here. In fact, I appreciate it. Something I have been pushing on my own site for years has been less of the "fire porn" and more critical thinking. Someday we will drag them, kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
Jarod Aubuchon Jarod Aubuchon Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:40:47 PM I completely agree with the views of this column, but while so many departments are cutting positions in the fire service I believe the focus on fire prevention would make newcomers less ambitious about getting into the field. Furthermore of we raised fire prevention to a greatly higher level it's possible that some administrators would see less need for personnel and equipment. Therefore working ourselves out of a job.
David Yard David Yard Thursday, July 24, 2014 2:21:46 PM You answer the question in this article. No, it does not hurt anything. If it gets FF to debate strategy and tactics, then that in itself is training.
Doug Niemeyer Doug Niemeyer Thursday, July 24, 2014 8:57:54 PM The citizens do not sleep better because of your duty. Our teachers are paid better than myself. You will not fight fire with water, but with prevention, because you will save more children and never know it. Do not bust out the guys who are your superiors, you and they have no idea about what the next call will bring.
Cory Schultz Cory Schultz Thursday, July 24, 2014 11:25:31 PM I found this article very helpful to recindle my focus on true fire service. I will admit I find myself daydreaming to live out those images of badass rescuer or amazingly beating the odds of knocking down a raging inferno. However I still keep myself in check that those dreams may not be reality and that the best fire attack is fire prevention. In addition we as fire professionals should push fire prevention more than just in the month of October. It should be an all year effort. Rant over. Thank you
Christopher Pape Christopher Pape Friday, July 25, 2014 4:14:32 AM Good read, tough audience lots of comments many more pro's than cons. My sense is suppression is very much like the battlefield during war, very real time with many opportunities for heroic wins and losses. Education and enforcement are peace time activities by comparison, when it's difficult to raise awareness and reduce the risk of the coming battle (fire event) how we are able to connect ourselves, our brothers and sisters and the public to these competitive efforts is still developing.
Friday, July 25, 2014 12:12:43 PM First: No argument whatsoever that prevention is and should be first priority. Firefighters will always watch fire porn with undivided attention to see the carnage from a flash-over, or snicker at brother firefighters performing bone-headed stunts. The key is to leverage what went wrong into a lesson learned. Educators call this "silly association", and it a proven teaching method. As training officer for a volunteer department, I have difficulty (probably like so many others) in getting and retaining the attention of firefighters during training sessions. Starting off a training session with an appropriate 'fire porn' video tends to get their attention before diving into a discussion of what happened in the video, how recognize the issues, and to not get yourself into that situation. I also make it a point to not show all of the videos at one time- spacing them out keeps staff awake and (somewhat) attentive.
Amy Acton Amy Acton Friday, July 25, 2014 12:33:43 PM From a citizen’s perspective, the ongoing debate within the fire service is almost shocking. Most would find it hard to believe that prevention is not viewed as part of the firefighter’s job. Whose job is it? If you do not sign up for “that” part of the job - then who will? Who understands more than you, the fire service, the causes, the devastating impact, and the potential solutions to the risks faced within our communities? You have the ability, power, and influence to make a difference in preventing injury and property loss as much as you do in saving a life or putting out the fire when you respond. Both are equally important. Both are part of the continuum of fire department services in fulfilling your mission of “protecting lives and property.” I witnessed many fire service meetings across this country, and I have listened to the debate between fire prevention and suppression. I can’t help but think of the thousands we serve at my organization who have been impacted by fire—the staggering amount of resources it takes to help them return to life after a burn injury. I for one have benefited from the response side of the house and have my life to thank for it. Yet let’s remember that the “Fire Porn” we are talking about in this thread are the homes of our neighbors, friends, and families. Those pictures are a devastating symbol within the burn survivor community of tremendous loss. Billy’s article helps us to at least consider the underlying message these images imply when we focus solely on this part of the firefighter’s role. Use these images for training, learn from those helmet cam videos—but please do not view this as the only part of your job. The voices of those within the fire service who are promoting the full spectrum of firefighting, from prevention through suppression and recovery, are growing. Having eliminated a risk or preventing a fire is equally, if not more, important—although not as easy to capture in images. Your work to promote the adoption of fire sprinkler codes or installing a functioning smoke alarm in a home is a very real value of the fire service. If not you—then who?
Rick Perron Rick Perron Saturday, July 26, 2014 8:23:30 AM this photo looks like porn to me(not real) a fire like that and the siding looks brand new. I've seen siding melt on the neighbor's house, but this siding is intact 2 ft away. good article though
Ryan Neal Ryan Neal Saturday, July 26, 2014 8:25:19 AM I just clicked on this because I saw "porn".
John Izak John Izak Saturday, July 26, 2014 9:06:09 AM I for one always look forward to Fire Engineerings cover photo and discussion on tactics relative to a moment in time. It is my opinion that your column is more like a rant. It's offensive to those of us who lead and educate firefighters to do it all including suppression and prevention. To make such bold generalizations for our entire service is reckless. Photos and videos can be a great tool such as playbacks in sports to teach and commend firefighters for their recent and future actions. I do agree that release of this media should be regulated to be sensitive to the public we serve, however, the modern day use of multimedia is here and we need to work with it. If you want to promote public awareness of the fire prevention side of our job and how we carefully manage people's possessions and guard the hearts them seek ways to do that. Don't cry out as leader in the fire service one way or another. This is my personal opinion.
Randy J. Ward Randy J. Ward Saturday, July 26, 2014 9:55:56 AM Thanks for having the guts to bring this important subject to the forefront. I would love for the day to come that prevention worked and all firefighters are out of a job. I know, wishful thinking.
Andy Frank Andy Frank Saturday, July 26, 2014 11:24:23 AM Ever notice that the best firefighter show of all time Emergency! did very little with fire prevention. Not even a tip at the end of the episode,
Orlando Velazquez Orlando Velazquez Saturday, July 26, 2014 1:09:44 PM one thing to remember Billy, this fire porn you mention is part of our training because not every fire is or acts the same, so by watching these videos will help us as firefighters to do our jobs better, I've learned a lot from these videos on how to attack these fires. as a 15 year veteran firefighter I want to go home and hug my kids, and kiss my wife after a fire.
Colby Miles Colby Miles Saturday, July 26, 2014 2:55:53 PM I'm still new to the fire service, only been on Thomaston Volunteer Fire Department in Thomaston, Maine for close to a year and a half. I'm 21 years old.... Not all of use new guys coming in joined cause of "Fire Porn". I joined cause I had friends who told me about all the training, equipment, and potential the fire service had. I joined with an open mind and an ultimate goal of just being there to help people in general. It's my nature I guess you can say. Are the adrenaline rushes that come when the tones drop and shit hits the fan a high? Hell yeah they are, but at the end of the day and once the high goes away. It still feels good knowing you helped somebody even being the new guy (Like me) who is still learning the ropes.To me that feeling still comes around after a day of working to install fire alarms, smoke alarms, heck, even helping one of the senior guys teach a class room of kids about fire safety. It's like any job, you got the exciting days where everything that could possibly happen, happens. Then the slow days where not much is going on and to keep busy you do the less glamorous stuff.
Ron Dennis Ron Dennis Saturday, July 26, 2014 3:58:05 PM This article is dead on the money! And it seems to me that many of the comments here seem to demonstrate understanding because they have read the article and get it. However its obvious that some folks have gotten caught up in the title, have taken offense, and have not embraced what the article really says. FYI Mr Damien, I do not see anywhere in the article where it says that is NOT OK to like Fire Porn or fighting fire. In fact, that's probably why we all signed up. Knowing how to attack a fire, hopefully with a sensible level of aggression based on the risk, is indeed exciting, fulfilling and takes courage, knowledge and skill. But its not a secret that one of the best ways to reduce those risks is by educating the public, getting the fire in check with sprinklers, and getting the people out early with smoke detectors. If you ONLY signed up to respond to fires and take risks without understanding the REAL mission of doing everything we can to save lives and property, then its obvious you have not embraced the ENTIRE mission, only the part that makes you feel good. Chief Hayes has made a very CLEAR point and he has done it with the courage to speak out, the commitment to make a difference and enough clarity and strategic vision to make everyone think! That's what change leaders do! As a 35 year veteran firefighter, I have had plenty of opportunity to exercise the skills and willingness to fight the fire. But the real emphasis INDEED needs to be on preventing fire and reducing the risks to the people we serve and to ourselves. What happens on the front lines is simply a necessary reaction to FAILING to emphasize prevention and education on the front end with an aggressive level of energy, commitment and courage. Ron Dennis
James Doc Munger James Doc Munger Saturday, July 26, 2014 6:29:00 PM Billy you are right on target. It is time for the American fire service to wake up and get with the program. The first and foremost job of fire service must be community risk reduction. Risk reduction efforts not only protect the public but represent an effective methodology for improving fire fighter safety. It is very sad and disheartening to see comments like those of Earthy Green. The only way to change our profession's outlook toward community risk reduction is for folks like you to be willing to step forward and challenge the "this is how we have always done it" mentality. I too have encountered firefighters like that one you describe in the article and you have to wonder what rock have you and your department been living under. On of the joys of teaching the NFA's course "Fire Protection Systems for Emergency Operations", is to see the light bulb come on with suppression officers that that "fire prevention stuff" is actually important.
James Doc Munger James Doc Munger Saturday, July 26, 2014 6:32:19 PM As for the fire porn issue, continuing to publish photos of melted helmets, etc only encourages further bad behavior. If you want to publish such photos, they should be accompanied by the lessons learned and the close calls that they represent. We have to break this cycle of our profession believing that dying is part of the job.
Gordon A Fowlston Gordon A Fowlston Saturday, July 26, 2014 7:10:55 PM Great read and great job totaly agree with you Billy!
Ron Lipps Ron Lipps Sunday, July 27, 2014 7:36:04 AM Can only "like" once...
James Doc Munger James Doc Munger Sunday, July 27, 2014 10:05:21 AM To add to Billy's comments about fire sprinklers. The fire service gives a lot of general support for the 16 Life Safety Initiatives that form the backbone of Everyone Goes Home. Wonder how many of these folks, even know or care about item #15: "Advocacy must be strengthened for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers." http://www.lifesafetyinitiatives.com/15/Initiative15.pdf Lets hope folks like Earthy Green take a few minutes of their time and go to this link and read the facts of life about community risk reduction.
Ben Cunningham Ben Cunningham Sunday, July 27, 2014 12:11:12 PM Fire prevention is alive in the fire service. This article comes off as every department in the states is "blinded by tradition" to accept these task as part of the fire service. While it is a tad disturbing that the individual didn't know of Chief Brunacini, it doesn't represent his knowledge in fire prevention/safety. Maybe this kid is focused more on the highest risk of the job. Maybe he knows of Brian Brush, FSW Ric Jorge and the many others leading the way. Let's face it, anyone can do fire prevention. You don't need articles on a weekly basis on how to install smoke detectors or present a program to school children.
Scott Ferguson Scott Ferguson Monday, July 28, 2014 7:08:44 AM Mission accomplished - the article generated some healthy, contentious, but healthy conversation - thanks Billy.
Margueritte Root Hickman Margueritte Root Hickman Tuesday, July 29, 2014 12:36:37 PM I'm glad to see this article! All of these prevention efforts also help our firefighters to go home. I'm noticing in my community college classes that there is a greater shift to safety concerns and an appreciation for fire sprinklers. Maybe we will see the culture shift some in our lifetime, if not in our careers. Bravo Billy Hayes!
Jack White Jack White Tuesday, July 29, 2014 7:41:07 PM I think porn was a poor choice of words. The article is right on in its content. Our fire safety educator for our small paid on call fire department did more good last year in the 40 plus hours she spent in the classrooms of our third grade then all of the equipment carried on our engines. In my forty years of service I have seen a nearly 75% reduction in working fires. We still need to train and train harder and longer, but to neglect prevention is like buying more bandages to bind up our hand, instead of addressing the cause of the cuts.
Eric Johnson Eric Johnson Saturday, August 02, 2014 8:11:53 PM 15 years ago, if you walked into a fire station you would find a bunch of firemen looking at pussy magazines. Now, you walk into a fire station and find a bunch of pussies reading fire magazines..... I'm not sayin, I'm just sayin....
Andy Marsh Andy Marsh Friday, August 08, 2014 3:31:26 PM With all due respect, I really wish that we would change that "fire porn" terminology. Most of the videos I've watched are very beneficial to what we do everyday. There are bad videos out there and perhaps we can file them under "Trash or "Junk" t.v. , not lump them all into a "porn" category. Fire Engineering and Fire Rescue for instance, do a pretty good job with videos, with their 'Training Videos" and they have included the subject of Fire Prevention. Overall, one has to be scrutinous in deciding what video is good or bad. Fire Prevention indeed saves lives. A fact of the matter is that we only have statistics on how many are killed or injured as a result of fire. We don't know how many are actually saved from Fire Prevention, but we know it works. In fact in the 34 years I've been a part of the Fire Service, I can probably count on both hands how many times I've heard that the fire safety that was taught in schools or at public assemblies prevented the loss of life or property. Occasionally we hear about the child that remembered to "Call 911" or helped his or her family out of a fire, because of E.D.I.T.H. We do know that prior to 2004, responding to or from fires has killed on average 100 firefighters per year. From 2004 to now, we've seen a few years that our line of duty deaths fell under 100, largely in part of what the Everyone Goes Home and Courage To Be Safe programs and how we put them out there. Those programs remain today, plus many more. While I think that it's impossible to eliminate all line of duty deaths, I would venture to say that if we could have prevented those 100 line of duty deaths in each of those years through fire prevention or risk reduction. we would have. I firmly believe in Fire Prevention and overall Community Risk Reduction. I also firmly believe in training in overall Engine Company, Truck Company and Rapid Intervention Team Operations, to keep our firegrounds as safe as possible and as efficient as possible as well. We cannot do without any of these components ! Many firefighters and officers believe that the mission of saving lives and protecting property doesn't include fire prevention. They would rather believe that someone else will do it. But if it's never assigned, who will do it ? The 16 Life Safety Initiatives that were developed 10 years ago, include public education and being an advocate for residential sprinklers and stronger code enforcement. (See LSI # 14 and # 15 ) I'll even go out on a limb and state that fire prevention is covered in LSI's 1, 2 and 3, when you think of accountability, personal responsibility, risk management and the health and safety throughout the Fire Service. What we need to do is to stop making the component of " Fire Prevention" a loathed task, a demeaning task and a task that isn't filled with the pomp and glory that sends us chest bumping, fist pumping and taking selfies, well into the future, for short successes. NYFD has a great fire prevention component. So does L.A. , Chicago and Detroit. Do they still have fires? You bet they do ! Would it help them to have many more fire prevention personnel? Yes indeed, it would. Whether you are assigned to an engine, truck, rescue, or squad company or if you're assigned to fire prevention. if we're in it to win it , we're in it together to save lives and protect property. Chief, I liked your article. I wished you would have used a better term. I have great respect for you and for what you're trying to accomplish overall. I truly mean that. Having said that, Fire Suppression personnel & Fire Prevention personnel, working in tandem, as a team is what we need and that will keep us and those we serve around much longer ! Peace !
Billy D. Hayes Billy D. Hayes Monday, August 11, 2014 6:58:02 AM Andy well said. Part 2 of this article will post this week (hopefully tonight or tomorrow) in which I will address the term "fire porn." I really appreciate your response as it was thoughtful and well-written. You've nailed it on so many levels. My next column will be the last time I use "fire porn" in my articles (unless of course it is a response.) See ya soon pal and stay in touch.
Randy Anderson Randy Anderson Monday, August 11, 2014 12:57:20 PM I'm a volunteer firefighter in Ohio with the Johnsville Fire Dept. Every year I look forward to going to out elementary school during fire prevention week to speak to the kids on fire prevention, what to do if there's a fire, where to go (meeting place). I would really love to be our fire prevention officer on our department. Unfortunately with our dept being volunteer, of course you know that means a full time job outside of the department. What is the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I couldn't agree more. I'll admit I like "porn" but I also like cartoons...I wouldn't mind being the coyote or elmer fudd
Jimmy Johnson Jimmy Johnson Wednesday, August 13, 2014 9:57:56 PM I read the whole article,and It was Excellent in the ways of being able to be on the preventive side,instead of the "fire porn" side. even thought about how it would be really great to be able to give our communities that "ounce"of prevention that would actually make a big difference into how we do our jobs.The part about the sprinklers in the residential houses would be a very informative topic to share ,and how it could actually Benefit to having them in the homes, of which would make the chances of having more "saves" than "total losses/destroyed" I was one for the community here at my community , and I loved to share things that would help my people out in the ways of prevention and I felt that even though I did not "know it all I:E like our one individual who thought he was god himself to the fire service" what I did know ,I was able to present it to many folks in my community ,and they understood exactly what i meant. That is one of the very reasons that I was such a good Firefighter to my community. As I learned about different items of interest, i would share it with as many as I could. Yes, I also had the "fire porn junkie" in me but as I became more aware of how the mechanics of fire control became a major part of how the job was done ,then it was clear that the very same info needed to be shared with those in our community. I am in total agreement for the having of a sprinkler system in my home, if it is going to save me in just having to repair or replace only one total room's worth of belongings and living space, as to the comparison of having to replace a whole entire structure. So, I concur with your article Billy. the paradox has to go both ways in order to be effective.But in the long run it is best to have more of the prevention to the public than "the adrenaline rush"
Joseph Jpoc Comeau Joseph Jpoc Comeau Wednesday, August 20, 2014 8:14:26 AM https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.370601929706730&type=1
Jeannine Blalock Horton Jeannine Blalock Horton Sunday, August 31, 2014 11:39:26 AM Kudos to you for stepping out on that limb and saying what needs to be said about attitudes and actions that need to be changed for the betterment of the people served by the fire service. The only problem with the title, in my opinion, is folks need to stop reading the "titles" and start reading the story. Better yet, read the story and go further, get underneath that story to the roots; Do something different to make things better for those we serve. I call it the the "news world" view, our whole picture of the world is painted around tweets, titles and 6 second news blurps! We have become a world of glorified false reality and drama. Many have just lost touch with the purpose of humanity in the first place. Lost sight of what the commitment and responsibility to "helping others" and being good stewards of the gifts we have been given, requires of us. Given time, robots and machines will fight the fires and rescue the victims from the "dragon". Machines will never be able to engage others in influence, empathy, love and community. The biggest debacles and issues we face today evolve around this inability to focus on prevention and healthy existence because we are so distracted by the drama, entertainment factor, and in selling the big money machine. We have created mental models that are highly disconnected from our true purpose in life on earth. What are the reasons the fire service is even in existence today? What was it created for? How is it really doing in achieving its true purpose? Who is benefiting the most? Where should the fire service be today, given the technology and knowledge available, to add the most value to those it has sworn to "protect and serve"? What can each firefighter do to make the world of those they serve better today and even better for tomorrow?

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