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State Fire Marshal

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

You can’t make this stuff up

​​By Steve Flaherty
MBFTE Executive Director​​​​

When it comes to being prepared in the world of public safety response, one thing remains abundantly clear: You can never have too much training. If you tend to disagree with this statement, then I ask you and your organization to look at some of the recent events that have happened -- locally and nationally -- and then ask yourselves this simple question: “If that ever happened in our community, would we be able to respond effectively?" Furthermore, try to think way outside the comfort level of your typical day-to-day responses for your organization, dream up some kind of weird scenario, and ask the same question. Think it won't ever happen in your community? Think again!

The events at a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wisc. made me wonder if their community was as prepared as they could have been in every aspect to respond to this sort of mass-casualty incident. Although horrific to consider in any community, public safety preparedness today revolves around making stuff up – as crazy as those scenarios may seem – and then training to address them and mitigate the chaos as quickly and efficiently as possible. How many of us have sat down at the training room table and made something up like responding ​to an incident where a vehicle has purposely disrupted our hometown parade? I never had considered that one -- until now.

On a more local level, I recently received a call from a frustrated fire chief whose department staffing is down to just two people due to a recent outbreak of COVID in his department. That is coupled with the fact that he cannot recruit or retain anyone from his community to staff their department. He reached out to the neighboring departments and advised them of his current dilemma. But those departments are dealing with similar issues in rural parts of the state. The most recent incident for this particular department was a daytime structure fire when the chief and one other firefighter were the only personnel to respond. It took 45 minutes for the neighboring fire department to arrive with one engine and three firefighters to provide mutual aid.

Don't think that these scenarios can't happen to you? Again, I implore you to think again. Preparedness comes from training, education and -- sadly enough -- experience.

Stay low. Stay safe. Stay well.​