This week, we published a feature in recognition of our Summerland firefighters and their contribution to Summerland. Volunteer men and women are key to this department and they should receive a pat on the back.
I don’t think we give our emergency personnel a fair shake.
In general, we say the right things when it comes to thanking our first responders, police, paramedics and firefighters. However at budget time, the gloves come off.
These are men and women that run in the direction of danger.
We resent their salaries and their requests for updated equipment. We question why they require new buildings or why they need to hire staff.
Heaven forbid if we see them having a coffee break.
I would consider myself a fiscal conservative. I want my local, provincial and federal government to manage their finances responsibly. I think most people would agree with that.
I also think most people want the fire department to be able to put out their house fire, the police to keep crime at bay and paramedics to save their lives should the worst occur.
In a past life, I worked in a nightclub. Some of the security and medical situations I witnessed gave me a new perspective on the risk and training involved to be a first responder. Along the way, I got to know several of them. They all take their job seriously and with honour. I am lucky to count many of them as friends to this day.
Investments in staff, equipment and training will only make these services better. Of course, these kinds of budget decisions come at a cost. A different perspective might be required.
I think our priorities are in the wrong place.
I would encourage our local municipal, provincial and federal leaders to ride along and see what our emergency staff deal with in an average day.
This approach has worked for other services.
There is nothing like seeing with your own eyes. I highly doubt it would be as easy to slice and dice budgets if they saw things from the point of view of a first responder. Unfortunately, under normal circumstances, something bad has to happen before we all see the value of these investments.
Criticism of first responders isn’t just reserved for budget time.
The war on emergency services has been going on for years. Social media has made this infinitely worse. Every day, we see an amateur video featuring emergency personnel in a negative light. Some of these cases are justified. My point is that we rarely hear the good stories. In my opinion, the good stories outweigh the bad. The media is a willing accomplice to this war. Negative stories sell newspapers, provide TV ratings, page views…you get the point.
My message here is a simple one. Before you share that negative story, or criticize the budgets given to our emergency services, think. Think about a circumstance where you needed them and they came through. Think about some of the things they are forced to see and deal with. Think about them running in the direction of danger, instead of away from it.
Share the good stories when you hear them and count your blessings for every day that we don’t have an event requiring their services.
Also don’t forget to say a kind word when you see them around town. They have earned it.
Rob Murphy is the sales manager of the Summerland Review.