Editor’s Opinion: Keep Doing Your Homework

Hopefully by now, whichever state you call home is starting its phased process for reopening.
Chris Mc Loone

In my state (Pennsylvania), schools will remain closed until at least September, and in my region (Southeast Pennsylvania), we are preparing for a prolonged stay-at-home order as one of the “hot spots” of the state for COVID-19. As my three sons continue to navigate virtual schooling, my wife and I often find ourselves reminding them that just because they are out of school, they still need to finish their homework on time, and although many of their classes are “optional” meetings, we expect them to be attending everything. It’s definitely an interesting time, and one in which there has been a hard shift to digital solutions for education, work, and the fire service.

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One example in the digital shift has been in training. Many fire departments are conducting training via various online meeting platforms. Some have invited guest speakers, who are themselves learning to navigate training sessions in the digital world. While not a substitute for in-person, hands-on training, these sessions allow firefighters not on duty or restricted from the firehouse in some way during the COVID-19 pandemic to remain engaged.

Along the same lines, apparatus purchasing does not stop during a pandemic. Departments are drafting specs and are presenting them to their municipalities’ leadership to justify the purchase and receive approval to move forward. No doubt, apparatus purchasing has begun to go digital as well. In normal times, we are already communicating via e-mail, sending and receiving pictures, even receiving .pdf files for the specs. Suddenly, apparatus purchasing committees (APCs) have been thrust into the world of digital truck inspections via online meeting platforms. Engineering conferences can be held online, as well as conversations between salespeople and APCs.

Along the same lines, author Bill Adams has often commented that when a salesperson walks into a fire department to discuss a new apparatus purchase today, the APC’s members know far more about the company the salesperson represents and the company’s products. They also know far more about what is available because of the Internet. Don’t forget to consult Web sites like FireApparatus.com and RigSpot.com as you research and develop plans for your next fire apparatus. Now more than ever, doing your homework online yields more informed purchasers. Don’t let the pandemic stop you from using all the possible methods to build your next rig. And, if you’re in the middle of the process now, don’t scoff at digital options to keep the process moving.

Getting away from the digital homework, don’t forget your equipment. Daily, weekly, and monthly checks have to continue to ensure your tools are in top condition and ready for service. Although you might think, “Well, it’s only one week,” you’d be amazed at what small things can occur that cause big problems on the fireground. Keep the saws topped off and chains tightened. Ensure the fluid reservoirs for your rescue tools are at the right levels. Start everything that is gas-powered. All of this can be done while socially distancing.

Ensure all nozzles are working properly and don’t forget to check your self-contained breathing apparatus cylinders—those already in a harness and all the spare bottles. If it’s possible to top them off if necessary, do it.

And, don’t forget the rigs. Follow your preventive maintenance schedule even during these days of stay-at-home orders. Your rigs are essential to your being able to perform your duties—whether monthly, weekly, or daily. Stick to the schedule and make sure every item is checked out. And, make sure your “A” team is on the job. A preventive maintenance or equipment check report is only as good as the folks filling it out.

These remain unprecedented times. If someone had told me in September 2019 that my Class of 2020 eighth grader would be spending the last four months of his elementary school career at the dining room table every day in front of a laptop learning via Zoom Meeting, I would not have believed him. But, here we are.

My hope is that by the time you’re reading this, your state has been on the path to reopening, the unemployment numbers are going down, and we are all beginning to return to some semblance of normalcy.

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