Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Raping of the Fire Service.

I read (watched) the commentary and rhetoric generated by the Fox News videos hosted by the former consumer advocate and current pin head, John Stossel. He started out small time and it appears he never left, just found a bigger venue. Now he can say stupid things to a lot more people, but his level of intelligence has not changed. If you missed these videos, you can go catch them here at Boron Extrication, a great site by the way.
 In a way, it's hard to blame these needle necked jerks for asking the question they are asking, and for making the implications they are making. The Unions, they say, are bleeding the country dry with their pension programs.
 This is the kind of tripe they pick up from the politicians who are focused on making a big enough splash to retain their cushy positions. Nobody wants to point out that the pension plans were negotiated in good faith with an eye toward being fair to the public servants who put their lives and the welfare of their families on the line to do the job.
 The talking heads are using some pretty skewed data to support the nonsense they put up as logic. They say that firefighting and Police work is safer than fishing and many other occupations. They base this information on the fatality rates. They also say fires have dropped by 50%. What they don't say, know, or want the public to know is that Firefighting leads almost every year in the injury rates, followed closely by Police. They also don't mention that the average fire today is many times hotter faster, and more dangerous than anything we've seen in years past. As I said, they don't want the public to know this.
 I took a look at the injury rates reported by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2008 and 2009 here. I wanted to see what the actual injury rates were for various occupations. If you look at this chart, you will see, as I did, that Fire protection leads the way in nonfatal injuries and illnesses with days away from work in 2009. Firefighting is followed by Air transportation and then by Police protection, which is followed by nursing and then heavy construction. I don't see fishing anywhere on this list. This listing, if I understand the data, would also include those who go out on permanent disability or early retirement due to their injuries. A detail which is not specifically mentioned.
 All those who would gut the pay and benefits of our public employees are using the fatality statistics. However, I think we can all be proud of those statistics. In the Fire Service, we have worked tirelessly to bring those numbers down in the face of continued challenges to our safety. We work on it every day, as not other industry does except perhaps the military. There are no extensive and ongoing training programs for the crab fishermen of the world. They are working with essentially the same tools and methods they used 60 years ago. The Fire & Police Services on the other hand, have evolved. They have accepted the risk and resolved to minimize it in any way possible. We use state of the art equipment, trucks, and tools, we have found ways to do things that do not require as much risk as we used to incur. WE have reduced the fatalities, not the politicians, and yet in a sick twist of fate, they seek to use that victory to prove that we are no longer needed as much as we used to be, and that we are not 'worth' as much as we were just a decade ago.
 We already do a lot more now, with a lot less manpower than we had 20 years ago.
 The pity is, that when all these pay scales, work rules, and pension plans were negotiated years ago, the politicians heralded these agreements as victories. Now that the math isn't working out quite the way they expected, that want to change history and blame those around them.
 We elect these politicians to run our Governments and handle the business of running our Towns, Villages, Counties, States, and Federal Government. The fact that they have failed miserably to act in a responsible and effective manner is not something they should seek to blame on others. They should look in the mirror and blame 'that guy'.
 The Fire and Police services are still some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Don't let the talking heads tell you otherwise. It now becomes our job to make sure the public gets the true message. There has already been enough damage done and the stages is set for some real catastrophes in the coming years until our fighting forces are back to the proper numbers. In the meantime, when the catastrophe hits, and we all KNOW that it will, we need to find a sensitive way to say loud and clear, "We told you so. Don't blame the firefighters, blame yourselves."
 This has been an editorial opinion of the management at Unlimited-Unscheduled Hours.

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