2019 is barely half over and we’ve already been challenged with the events of a lifetime. In my 50-plus years in the fire service, most of them industrial emergency response related, and my 34 years of publishing Industrial Fire World, I have seen and heard a lot about the challenges and innovations that have impacted industrial fire and emergency response.

In this issue, we planned to focus on sensing and detection systems, so I wanted to tell you that while that topic may not jump out at you as you read this issue, I hope that you will see the common thread of thought. God gave us our most valuable sensors: smell, hearing, vision and a brain to process those messages to guide us in daily routine operations and emergency events.

As technological advancements have emerged to make our fire world safer and lower risk to manage emergency incidents, it’s easy to numb our human senses that tell us danger is near. Look at what is not just in front of us on fire but also around us that impacts what could happen and how we can or cannot retreat if necessary. As you monitor what is going on day to day in your facility, it’s easy to let it become so routine that you miss an indicator that risk is increasing and action is needed to prevent or reduce risks on the horizon.

When the big event happens, recall the basics while punching in the calculations for foam and water flow needed.  Be open to hearing what others are saying about the situation. Everyone involved has sensors at work and they may see and hear things you cannot because of your location. Incident command in particular as well as the operations chief have a lot to process between what is, what appears to be and what could be based on actions or inactions of the responders they command.

The weeks ahead are filled with training events and conference where you can share information and learn from experts and your peers. Again, I encourage you to ask a lot of “what if” questions as you go through these sessions. As you make decisions about foam, equipment, apparatus, PPE, sensing and detection and communications equipment, and strategy and tactics to keep pace with code changes and facility changes keep the basics in mind as well as new possibilities. 

Every day is a new opportunity to learn and share what you know.  That’s been the driving force in my career.  We recently moved to a new office and I had 50 boxes of books and 50 boxes of magazines on a wide scope of fire topics to move. I’m in the process of sending over 200 videos (also in DVD format) to the National Fire Heritage Center as a resource you can tap to use in your training.

I want to believe that every word and image contained in that collection is actively the knowledge employed by firefighters every day. The truth is that no matter what media is put to use, from fiber optics to smoke signals, complacency too often rules the day.

People act as if their minds are already so dangerously overburdened with data that adding one more fact about pump based foam proportioning systems risks squeezing out something really important. Who was burned alive on Drogo’s funeral pyre in “Game of Thrones”? What band sings during the opening credits on “Friends?”

Print or electronic, digital or analog, information ignored is information wasted. The problem is information about firefighting is particularly hard won, often at the risk of someone’s life. A firefighter being cavalier about staying current on fire protection is nothing short of a sin.

The bottom line is that none of the training and response resources are of much value unless we use them effectively in addressing each challenge we face.  Before you act ask, “what if?”

No, I do not know who was burned alive on Drogo’s funeral pyre. I am more concerned with keeping my readers from meeting the same fate at the next big refinery fire. I hope you are more worried about it yourselves.