Playing the Odds Mentality
This mentality is a lot cheaper than “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Cheaper to taxpayers, cheaper to the City. Budget cuts are in effect across the Nation. September 11th has worn off. The days of Politicians and Local Leaders realization of the need for more firefighters and more police officers is gone. Now the fight has become local. Only in the face of tragedy do things change anymore. Look at Charleston. Firefighters complained for years seeking change in their outdated system. 9 Firefighters died and suddenly everyone is opening their eyes.
Unfortunately, this playing the odds mentality has seeped into the rank and file of our department. The ideals of needing more firefighters on the trucks and more firefighters on scene have been replaced with “Who Cares” and “We have tried but cannot make a difference”. Very true, we have tried to get them to listen. So far they aren’t hearing it. I will be damned if I am going to give my life up because the system failed me. Don’t take that the wrong way, I am still willing to risk my life for the life of another, that is what we do. However, I am not going to give my life by accepting the odds and going along with Administration.
Through this whole ordeal of budget cuts and future changes, the single most significant moment was when Chief Hoback admitted that he had not seen the Fire-EMS Budget located in the Resource Allocation Plan. That same documentation that we were told he created, one of three as a matter of fact, and our City Manager picked that one. This happened, I was there. It was a moment of clarity.
We all know who is running the department. Call it what you will and use your own analogies, but it is not safe the way things are going. We need change. We need reform.
I took a class recently at the training center. The class was offered on duty and was taught by Retired Chief Poff from Roanoke County. The class was on the art of reading smoke. This class was great. Not only did I learn a lot, but I could tell that the other firefighters with me learned a lot. The case studies on the Keokuk Iowa fire that killed 3 firefighters and the Houston McDonald’s that killed 2 firefighters was especially interesting. These case studies were interesting because I remember them. The lessons learned from the fires which took these firefighters could be life saving one day.
With our current and future cuts, consolidation, disbanding of companies we are in a downward spiral. The end is nowhere in sight. We have effectively created a quint concept in some of our stations and possibly more in the future. With 3 firefighters on our rigs, this is a recipe for disaster. The one saving grace is that while we do have fires in Roanoke, we do not have many fires with people trapped. This enables us to not risk quite as much while fighting fires. We still search and are capable of rescue, we just don’t have to push the envelope too far regularly. Who can forecast the future? Apparently our City leaders can. Because they continue to cut and play the odds. Just don’t let that mentality get a hold of you.