By Kalli Colacino
It’s 2 a.m. and you’ve awoken to the piercing sound of blaring sirens. Annoyed, you turn over and try to go back to sleep, not even giving the sirens a second thought. The source of the bothersome noise—a firetruck—is racing against the clock to save lives.
Firefighters and other first responders are not appreciated nearly enough. Each day, men and women risk their lives to protect the public. Their service should be seen as a privilege, not an expectation.
Every day, firefighters voluntarily run into burning buildings, putting their own safety on the line. A U.S. fire department responds to a fire every 24 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association. It doesn’t matter if a fire started in your home because you were too busy watching tv and forgetting about the pasta on the stove or if a pipe in your wall exploded. More often than not, people “accidentally” start fires by cooking or smoking.
The majority of homeowners are not aware of how dangerous it is when they “light one up” while watching a football game. They fail to consider a realistic and tragic outcome: a fire. If that possibility becomes a reality, they call 911 and run out of the house, worrying about their home and possessions. What they fail to consider is the lives of first responders who have to deal with the consequences of the homeowner’s actions. The “innocent” act of smoking in your own home has turned into an unnecessary life-threatening situation for emergency responders.
Some may argue that it’s a firefighter’s job to put out a fire, a police officer’s job to keep the streets safe and an EMT’s job to save an injured person. Yes, it is. But their job is not a joke, and their service is not something to take for granted. According to USFA and the FBI, respectively, 82 firefighters died in the line-of-duty, and 106 law enforcement officers died in the line-of-duty in 2018.
It is time to start appreciating our first responders more. Be more cautious when you’re cooking on the stove. Take your cigarette outside. Be mindful. And something I cannot stress enough — pull over for emergency vehicles. All too often, I see drivers so distracted by their phones that they don’t realize there’s an emergency vehicle trying to get through. When you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, be courteous and get out of the way so they can do their job. If it was you who needed their assistance, I’m sure you would want them to arrive as soon as possible.
It is time that people start giving these men and women the credit they deserve. Their job isn’t easy and definitely isn’t safe. Be appreciative of their service and commitment to helping the public.
The next time you wake up to the sound of sirens, remember that there are first responders in that emergency vehicle who are on their way to help someone in need.