This weekend marked the 35th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, which leads us into annual Fire Prevention Week, when we encourage all Americans to learn about and adopt fire safety best practices. As a former fire chief, this is an important time to remember the fallen and to ensure that households around the country prioritize fire safety.
This is a good reminder to do simple things like ensuring you replace your smoke alarm every ten years. If you can’t remember or are unsure about how old your home’s smoke alarms are, go ahead and replace them to be safe. It’s a small step that can have a big impact.
Taking a small step like this is critical to community safety, since one blaze can quickly spread to nearby areas. In rural areas, it can mean the difference between losing a room and losing the entire house.
Most rural communities are served by volunteer firefighters, who often lack the resources and staff of their urban counterparts. In fact, the National Volunteer Fire Council recently found that while the number of calls to fire departments has increased by 166 percent since the mid-1980s, the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States has declined by 12 percent, and the volunteer firefighter corps is aging. Combined with fewer economic resources, this means volunteer firefighters in rural communities face serious challenges to ensuring their community’s safety.
That’s why the First Responders Group is collecting input from volunteer firefighters on how the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate might be able to provide innovative technologies and knowledge products that could improve efficiencies for rural response.
If you volunteer as a firefighter or know someone who does, I ask that you send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. With your help, we can start developing solutions that will better support volunteer firefighters and the communities they serve.