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Changing Paradigms in Fire Safety & Burn Prevention: Key Note Address from the 2012 Northeast Juvenile Firesetting Conference

By Ernest Grant, RN, MSN, FAAN

May 8, 2013 Back

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Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.  It is indeed an honor and pleasure to speak with individuals who have similar goals of advocating for and working to reduce an often overlooked and misunderstood behavior. I would like to take this opportunity to challenge you to think outside of the box of our traditional approaches to addressing the issue of Juvenile Fire Setting behavior.  I want to challenge you to consider a new approach of advocating for those we serve.  In other words, I want you to think of a paradigm shift.

Paradigm- a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them (American Heritage Dictionary, 2008)

The field of fire safety and burn prevention, like every healthy and growing organization or movement, must at some time re-evaluate its own beliefs, prioritize its efforts towards real solutions, re-commit to a fundamental mission of “why we do what we do”, and look toward the future with clear directions.  In order to accomplish such critical tasks it is sometimes necessary to challenge existing paradigms or belief systems that have dominated the thinking, practice, and decision making in the field for long periods of time and replace them with a new set of values and practices that more reflect a current reality.  This is a challenge we face today.

As we move to the future of fire safety and burn prevention the accomplishment of five imperative achievements will mark the type of dramatic shift that I believe will serve as the foundation to our success.  These include:

1. Total integration of fire safety and burn prevention practice into fire service.

This can be accomplished through education of key fire service leaders, adopting professional standards in prevention, grooming prevention advocates for leadership positions and building effective partnerships with fire service management.

2. Raise the professionalism of prevention.

Through advocacy for more available trainings through NFPA, participating more actively in research and peer publication efforts, and embracing program evaluation in prevention we have the opportunity to raise the professional image and status of prevention work in the fire service and burn care arenas.

3. Re-define our concept of fire safety education.

With an education effort that views fire safety as a cradle to grave necessity, is culturally sensitive and addresses value change, and utilizes emerging technologies for delivery we can develop new education techniques that will meet our stated goals.

4. Accept fire and injury as social problems.

This can be accomplished by our seeking to become involved in other social initiatives in our communities and being certain that our prevention efforts are inclusive of all members of our communities.

5. Become politically active.

As fire service professionals we have been seemingly reluctant to enter the political arena as actively as some other safety or health organizations.  Through identifying problems that may lead to legislative actions as part of the solution and placing life safety initiative into local and state campaigns we can take advantage of our public credibility and influence to support measures and actions that advance our fire safety goals.

Accomplishing these goals is not without its challenges as we face an ever changing world in which fire safety and burn prevention continues to need to prove its’ worth every day.  However, with a willingness to remain committed to our endeavors, our utilizing advanced technology and other available assets, and active collaboration with colleagues from other professional disciplines we have the opportunity to remain that vital and important voice for fire safety and burn prevention in our communities, states, and nation.

Once again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.  I continue to remain amazed at the work and endeavors you do to make our homes and communities a safer place to live.

About The Author

Ernest Grant, RN, MSN, FAAN

Ernest is the Nursing Education Clinician for the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center where he has been employed for the past 30 years. In this role, he is the Director of Outreach and Prevention and serves as the Burn Center’s liaison for pre-hospital, hospital, allied health professionals, corporate entities and Military Personnel. He promotes continuing education on the immediate care of burns, wound care treatment modalities and the prevention of burn injuries, additionally serves on several national committees that establish the standards for the care of burns.

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