How are a blanket and a bandage different?

The issue of what can and cannot be given to the public is one that must be clear in each fire department

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: While the specifics of this incident may be a little murky, Chief Adam K. Thiel urges all fire departments to have a clear discussion about what can and cannot be given to the public.

I'm not entirely sure what to say about this story and the event(s) that kicked it off. I feel like there must be some additional explanation or reason for how this all unfolded.

Regardless of the specifics in this case, however, it provides a useful reminder to check your fire department's policies and procedures for supplying items, donated or purchased, to members of the public.

Everywhere that I've worked, there have been strict rules — generally stemming from state procurement laws/regulations — about the disposition of public property. Certain rules apply to items purchased with public funds, other rules to donated items and some rules are applied equally to both categories.

Now it's important to understand the intended purpose for laws and regulations about disposing of government property; the public policy rationale, of course, is to prevent private individuals from profiting at the public's expense.

Implementing the rules can be a real challenge, however, for public organizations (like fire departments) that operate at the intersection of the public and private realms. There's probably no question that using a 4x4 bandage, IV fluids, trauma dressings, etc. on a patient meets the intended public purpose for those items.

So why might a blanket be different; perhaps because it's not disposable? I don't know, but it's probably a good conversation for all of us to have in our respective departments.

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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