This year’s observance of Fire Prevention Month is even more significant because it follows the 10th year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  All persons working in fire service, as well as law enforcement and first responders, remember the sacrifices of all who lost their lives that tragic day, and they strive to educate the public in ways to prevent further needless loss of life from fire.   Later this month, the week of October 9th through 15th marks the 88th year fire departments from around the country have observed this event – making it the longest running public health and safety observance on record.  The theme for 2011’s observance is “Protect Your Family from Fire!”  We will look into that observance prior to that special week.  First, let’s review changes in the NYFD that have been made since 9/11.  The following is an excerpt from the NFPA Journal, written by Fred Durso, Jr.:

Ten years ago, on September 11, in New York City, the room that housed FDNY’s operations center was very small, with a few phones, and two televisions.  The assistant chief, Salvatore Cassano, was trying to monitor what was what was happening across the river at the World Trade Center after one hijacked airplane, then another, struck the towers.  He says,  “I was trying to get a handle on what was going on at a 16-acre [6.5-hectare] site, trying to round up where our people were, which hospitals they were in. None of that was available to us at our fingertips.”  On 9/11, now Chief Cassano lost 343 of his FDNY comrades.  “Ten years later, that event still haunts us every day,” he says.  After describing their monitoring system, he now proudly shows off the $17 million FDNY operations center that opened in 2005, after the events of 9/11 made it painfully clear that the FDNY’s monitoring and communications resources were no match for an emergency on the scale of the World Trade Center attacks.

It is a large glass-enclosed room, dominated by five large display screens on the front wall. These screens present a listing of current fires and other incidents throughout New York’s five boroughs, photos of building exteriors from around the city pulled from Google Maps, live feeds of New York’s busy thoroughfares, and national news broadcasts. A half-dozen FDNY employees monitor the screens while answering phones and analyzing data on their own computers. This is an example of how the FDNY has been improving since the post-9/11 era.

The National Fire Protection Association has undergone an evolution of its own in the decade following one of the most devastating moments in our country’s history.  New provisions have entered NFPA codes and standards as a direct result of 9/11, changes that have affected building safety, first responder safety, and much more. A new NFPA committee has taken high-rise safety to new heights by strengthening NFPA’s life safety and building codes. Firefighter uniforms and breathing apparatuses have undergone significant upgrades, thanks to provisions safeguarding users against an array of chemical, radiological, biological, explosive, and nuclear threats. New discussions are taking place about the role of elevators during emergencies in high-rise buildings. Federal agencies and departments formed after 9/11 have reshaped the concept of emergency preparedness using NFPA 1600, Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, to help launch an assortment of efforts designed to enhance public safety and preparedness throughout the U.S.

“9/11 will always be considered one of the worst days in American history, and it will also certainly be one of the most important days in the history of NFPA because of our long, forceful advocacy of preparedness, further safeguards to the built environment, and support for emergency responders that followed the attacks,” says NFPA President James Shannon. “NFPA has been a very important part of the country’s effort to do everything we can to prepare, in case anything like 9/11 ever happens again.”

Our fire and police departments, as well as first responders, continue being prepared.  However, with the rash of wildfires and other devastating loss of lives, businesses, and homes, we need to remember that many of those fire departments and first responders in rural communities are volunteers.  Because of heavy demands, their equipment has either been damaged or worn out, and there is always a need for funds.  Your donations will not only be appreciated, but used wisely.  They are ready to answer the call when we need them.

Source: NFPA, USFA