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:

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.

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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