With all that is going on in this COVID-19 world – mass unemployment, community lockdown, long-term economic problems and the many thousands of deaths that we know about – you’d be forgiven for thinking that there could be nothing positive to come out of this pandemic.
Sitting back and looking at the way people are innovating to get around the virus inconvenience to keep their social and business lives afloat, I see many lifestyle improvements. Many of these will extend beyond COVID-19 and many initiatives will become part of the fabric of our future society.
Three quick examples are.
- The use of online meetings, whether it be Zoom, Hangouts, Skype or Microsoft Teams, has allowed many people to keep in touch for everything from business meetings to children’s birthdays. It has also forced people to get the best of face-to-face communications when that is available.
- It is unlikely air travel will ever be the same with people now reassessing the need for a physical presence, and ongoing concern regarding social distancing.
- The need for as much office space will also be reconsidered.
Change often takes a crisis, and this is a big one, but then once change has occurred and the benefits settled into day-to-day life, reverting back to what was less desirable is not an option.
These forced changes got me thinking about what it would take to make the fire services change. I came to the conclusion that it would take a heck of a lot, because not much has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Firefighters work with disasters and confront wildfires, bushfires or forest fires, and have seen millions of hectares destroyed, towns lost, lives lost and firefighters killed, but the next year fire services repeat with minor variations what they did the year before. 9/11 killed 412 firefighters but looking at the news footage of recent fires in New York not much has changed on the fire ground. Has the London Fire Service changed its practices after Grenfell apart from some protocol changes? I don’t see it. We still put the wet stuff on the red stuff. I go back to the quote defining insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
Let’s think right outside the box and imagine getting rid of the Fire Services altogether. No more trucks, no more firefighters or fire stations. The community will look after itself in a fire situation.
In the built environment there is enough technology to protect buildings and the occupants from the results of fires. Legislation would make it a criminal offence to allow a fire to start, risk assessments and oversight would be more vigorous, occupants would be trained in small-fire control. Yes it would cost money, but would that be more than the cost of a full Fire Department. This is a job I challenge an economist to assess.
Residential and commercial properties in rural areas would be constructed to withstand the real assessment risk, in the unlikely event of a fire occurring. Satellite detection would instantaneously identify ignitions and drone swarms would extinguish the fires before they become large.
If a fire gets out of hand, there is enough separation and/or active systems in the neighbouring buildings to allow the burning building to burn itself out (this is what normally happens today anyway). All the occupants have escaped via well-designed escape systems.
All the standard work models have changed radically with the COVID-19 disaster but moving the fire service? Nothing will make the traditional fire service change. I challenge you to think of a world with no fire agency and how you would change society for such a risk. This might be farfetched, but something is needed to shake these foundations.
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