Most members of the public feel safe when the big red fire engine or the boys in blue show up at the scene of a crisis. We know that’s why firefighters, law enforcement officers and other public safety officials do what they do. They want to fix the problem, make sure people are safe and make everything OK — at least to the extent possible. Throughout history, their compassionate conviction has been a constant.
But during this season of tax deadlines and tornadoes, it might be appropriate to remember that third thing you can always count on to happen: change. Changes in the expectations of your job, the technology you use to get it done, the schedule you’re supposed to do it on and the training required to get that job in the first place.
Many of us saw changes in the way we communicate and our procedures after 9/11. I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t prevent what happened that day if they had the power to do so, but at least we’ve taken note of what didn’t work and improved inter-agency communication. NIMS is close to being a reality. And we have near-blanket permission to err on the side of caution in situations of questionable public safety.
One of the changes The Municipal takes a look at this month is how firefighters across the Midwest are training for two scenarios that were once not imagined in this region: fires and severe malfunctions at solar and wind farms. Laying alternative power generating plants at your doorstep means it’s time to step up and ask some questions about, for example, whether local fire departments will be the first line of defense or a backup to corporate emergency teams when something goes wrong.
Change isn’t inherently bad or good, of course. Some changes make the job easier and some make it harder. In advance of National Highway Awareness Week, writer Carrie Schmitt brings to light a very positive development.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has been hitting highway worker safety hard over the past 10 years and statistics show that drivers are listening. Incidents of highway worker injury and death have dropped by half in a decade.
Let’s hope that’s the kind of change we hear more of in 2013