It is perceived by fire service leaders that fire departments across the United States will see a paradigm shift from just emergency response services to a comprehensive community risk reduction and management focus. This statement is becoming more and more common as you sit and talk with fire service leaders across the nation. National fire Academy Executive Fire Officer EFO research documents are being developed and presented on this very topic. It was a discussion topic at the International Association of Fire Chiefs IAFC strategic planning meeting.

So why do we need to change directions? The fire service already responds and reactively handles the majority of emergencies, yet, ill chooses to properly address many of the common safety and health issues experienced by firefighters. Furthermore, we fail to properly coordinate our efforts when faced with disasters. The safety focus of the fire service will no longer be an afterthought, but a central focus of operations. The health and safety of our firefighters will no longer be an afterthought, but a central focus of operations.

The fire service will have to transition from an aggressive posture to a comprehensive health and safety program. The comprehensive approach has to be holistic, respectful and based on sound medical evaluation and diagnosis. The fire service has to ask itself several questions Are we prepared for the contingencies that may arise? Are we ready for what may happen? Can we cope with the unexpected? The combination of these questions and the associated risks makes this transition an uphill battle.

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