Be ready when the 'policy window' opens
Opportunities to present the fire service's case to the public are rare; be prepared
Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel says that opportunities to tell the fire service's story don't come along very often, and when they do we need to be ready to act.
This story illustrates a set of issues that we've seen a lot on FireRescue1 during the ongoing recession.
Namely, that local fire departments — career and volunteer — are often taken for granted until disaster strikes. It's generally not malicious or mean-spirited, just "out of sight, out of mind."
Wildfires, perhaps because they're so visible, seem to provoke the public-policy discussions that are usually put aside in favor of other community concerns.
In my experience, when this debate finally occurs, citizens and elected officials are often surprised by the staffing and resource needs presented by their local responders.
Regardless of prior attempts to articulate our departments' capabilities and limitations, when the "policy window" (a term used by the noted scholar John Kingdon) opens, we must be as ready as we (hopefully) are for a fire.