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Posted by Pete Kirby on September 02, 2014
When I was a teenager, there was a fire not far from my home in Virginia. The firefighters were all busy, and I could tell they were shorthanded, so I pitched in where I could to help. When the situation was contained, the chief running the scene came over to thank me and asked my age. I was too young at the time to join his department as a volunteer, but he pointed me in the direction of a junior volunteer program at the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department. That was almost 38 years ago, and I am still responding to emergency calls.
I’m a certified as a firefighter, emergency medical technician (EMT), and command officer, and for the last 24 years, I’ve served as a chief officer at the Centreville Volunteer Fire Department in Fairfax County, Virginia. A big part of my job—one of my favorite parts—is community education. Helping people prepare themselves to survive a home fire. Two of the things we focus a lot on in our community: working smoke detectors and educating kids on how to respond when one goes off.
As a part of a countywide campaign to prevent 9-1-1 calls, members of our department are going door to door on Saturdays, testing smoke detectors and in the absence of one—installing one for them. Research shows, alarmingly, that children do not know how to react if a smoke detector goes off in the home, especially if they are sleeping. It takes too long for them to wake up and often, they’re confused about what the sound means – they may even lay back down and go back to sleep! We host fire prevention campaigns for families and instruct them on how teach their children to respond to, and survive a situation when the home smoke detector goes off. We also talk about Carbon Monoxide detectors, check fire extinguishers, and instruct homeowners on their proper usage.
We’ve seen an immediate impact. We’ve had five confirmed “saves” in our county at homes that later experienced a fire situation and because of a working smoke detector installed by our firefighters, there was no injury or loss of life. This is just one example of the total impact that volunteer firefighters, and EMTs, can have in their communities.
I’m proud to work at a firm that recognizes the value of giving back to one’s community and I know that I am joined in this sentiment by dozens of other Booz Allen staff members across the country, serving as first responders in their own communities. As Booz Allen recognizes National Preparedness Month in September, I want to express my appreciation for the efforts of each person in our Volunteers in Emergency Service community of practice for stepping up to protect and serve their communities.
I also encourage each of you to prepare—there are many situations that life throws our way—fires, accidents, natural disasters. One key to surviving these is to be prepared. As you think about National Preparedness Month and the sacrifices of the first responders in your community, consider doing your part to prepare yourself:
If you’re in the Washington Metro Area, consider signing-up for the Booz Allen-sponsored INOVA Blood drive on September 25 at the firm’s McLean Campus. Register here, it’s open to the public.
Thank you for reading this post, and please share this preparedness information with friends, family, and co-workers!