By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer
As we begin the year 2023, “wish lists” for the coming year will be a popular topic for many writers and I’m no exception. Hopefully, we’ve learned some things in the past twelve months and can use those lessons to make 2023 a safer year for firefighters. So, without wasting any time, here are my “5 Wishes for the Fire Service” in 2023.
#5. I hope that firefighters become more aware of what they post on social media. We are held in high esteem by the public that we serve, and with that comes a huge responsibility. In this episode of “What’s YOUR Problem?” from August 2021, Chief Billy Goldfeder tries to underscore the importance of being smart on social media and how you can get through to others that their actions could seriously jeopardize their careers.
#4. It’s my wish that those firefighters who’ve chosen not to become vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and its variants, will rethink their decision and “get the shots.” I go back to the trust that they public has for its firefighters, and more importantly, the fact that that when someone calls 911 for our help, they don’t have a choice in who responds to their emergency. Don’t we have an ethical obligation to our citizens to not potentially expose them to a firefighter who may be capable of transmitting the COVID-19 virus to them when we respond to that call?
#3. Let’s make 2022 the year that all firefighters “get it” that maintaining clean PPE and adhering to SOGs after structural firefighting are critical behaviors in reducing the cancer risk following their exposure to the chemicals, chemical compounds, and carcinogens present in the smoke of today’s structure fire.
#2. Can we make 2022 the year that we eradicate sexual harassment and discrimination in the fire service? Can the majority group (i.e., white males) in most fire departments please accept the fact that any member of the non-majority group (e.g., women, Blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans, LBGTQT) who makes the commitment to serve their community as a firefighter has the right to do so without fear of harassment or discrimination? But instead, the majority group finds ways to make those firefighters feel welcome and help them become the best firefighters they can be?
#1. And finally, that we make 2022 the year when we eradicate the stigma associated with a firefighter needing mental health services. Let’s make this the year that we all accept that mental health issues arising from exposure to traumatic events are just as much an injury to a firefighter’s brain as a broken leg is a physical injury.
A Few End-of-Year Thank Yous
2022 was a good year for me personally. I have many people to thank for helping me continue after losing my wife and best friend of 40+ years on October 31, 2020 (Thankfully, not from COVID-19). I’ve now have a significant other in my life, Brenda, who is a great joy and has helped me to honor my late wife’s final wish, “Robert, don’t grieve for me. You have a lot of life to live. Find someone who will love you as much as I have and share it with them.”
I’m thankful for the continuing opportunities given to me by my editors at FireRescue1.com, Janell Foskett, Greg Friese, and Laura Neitzel, to author articles that I hope have helped the fire service move forward.
And thank you to you, the readers, and followers of this blog, for your support and encouragement, and from time to time, criticism that has helped me grow as a person and a writer. Without you, there is no me!