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Time Is…

(Appeared in January 2017 issue of The Dispatcher)

marty-kingSince obtaining my EMT license decades ago, I remember the adage, “Time is Muscle,” when we were taught about the importance of getting someone experiencing a heart attack to the hospital. We learned the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms in order to expedite treatment and transport. Later, we learned that with a stroke, “Time is Brain.” Again, the goal was to speed treatment to reduce damage. The same tact is taken when dealing with trauma victims. In these cases, we need to get people to the proper medical facility within the “Golden Hour,” often using helicopters to get medical teams to the scene or to quickly deliver the patient to a trauma team.

When dealing with responses to fires, the fire service has changed its tactics to decrease the time to get water on the fire. It has updated fire ground procedures to transitional attacks that cool the fire faster. The fire service is learning that old practices may not have been the best practices. While it was often thought that using a hose stream could potentially push fire into unburned areas or create hot steam that would injure occupants or firefighters, science has proven that using hose streams cools the area and reduces the risk of injury to occupants and firefighters. It has also been learned that ventilation has more impact on fire flow.

Science proves that it is the act of putting the “wet stuff on the red stuff” reduces damage caused by the fire. For over two hundred years the fire service has been known for its quick response to the fire to reduce loss, but current demands on the fire service have affected that response time. The fire service no longer solely fights fires, now also responding to all emergencies – motor vehicle crashes, medical emergencies, false alarms, floods, downed electrical wires, gas leaks, hazardous materials spills, active shooter incidents and anything else that requires help right away.

While there is an increase in demand for services, there is a decrease in resources available for response. Budgets cuts have reduced staffing in urban areas. Reduction in recruitment/retention of fire personnel in rural areas is cause for alarm. The question is how to deliver the fastest water to control the fire and reduce loss (property and lives).

The fire service needs to look at ways to prevent the fire and suppress it if prevention fails. It must supplement fire safety education with fire safety advocacy. This advocacy must expand beyond smoke alarms to include fire sprinklers. Fire sprinklers provide the fastest water in the initial stages of fire growth before fires spread, which reduces loss from occupant and firefighter injuries or fatalities and property loss.

For information on becoming a fire sprinkler advocate, please email me or visit National Fire Sprinkler Association – Wisconsin Chapter, National Fire Sprinkler Association, and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

-Marty King, State Coordinator, NFSA-WI

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