In a recent speech at FDIC, Harold Schaitberger, general president of the IAFF, made a comment that got me thinking: “It wasn’t too long ago that firefighters were the darlings of their communities, with political support from many directions. Now, they’re ready to take us on, openly.” Schaitberger went on to say that support for the fire service skyrocketed after 9/11, but now the “good will is beginning to evaporate.”
At that moment, I wished that everyone in the audience was hooked up to those gadgets CNN uses to test audience reactions during Presidential debates. Because I wanted to know, how many firefighters out there feel that? Nearly every community is experience budget pressures, some more intense than others, but is it accurate to state, as Schaitberger said, that the fire service is experiencing a “perfect storm that’s turning our profession upside down”?
We don’t have the polling budget of CNN, but I’m interested to know whether you agree with that.
And if so, what exactly is triggering the anger against firefighters? Is it, as Schaitberger suggested,
“media questions on pay, unsustainable pensions and Cadillac healthcare plans”? Is it that the fire service is lumped in with government in general, and there’s just a wee bit of anti-government sentiment out there right now? Or is it, as the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association white paper
suggested a couple months ago, the actions of a few firefighters that are dealing blows to the reputation of the fire service as a whole?
Schaitberger noted, “We used to be part of the solution; now there are some who see us as part of the problem.” As I see it, the more we understand about the problem—its source and its reach—the better position we’re in to once again be part of the solution.