A Message From Marshal Reardon
I hope this greeting finds you and your families hanging in there through this hot and challenging Ohio summer. Allow me to briefly introduce myself. My name is Kevin Reardon and I recently became your 39 th Ohio State Fire Marshal.

I entered the fire service in 1978 when I took my first 36-hour volunteer firefighter course at the Westerville Fire Department. That experience I gained at Westerville got me “hooked” on the fire service as a profession and forever altered the direction of my life.

I joined the Columbus Division of Fire in March 1981 and spent 32 amazing years with the department until retiring as a battalion chief in August 2013. Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to become involved in many activities beyond firefighting – including fire prevention, education and EMS as a paramedic.

Following 9/11, I found myself called to support the development of homeland security policies and procedures that eventually led to the creation of the CFD Terrorism Liaison Officer Program.

Outside the fire service, I have engaged in work that allowed me to enhance my experience within the government and private sectors, as well as higher education at the college level as an administrator of seven two-year degree programs.

I am extremely humbled and excited to have been appointed to the position of state fire marshal. I am completing my first month in the position and the transition has been an experience far beyond what I expected. As I begin the process of “drinking from the fire hose,” I have gained a tremendous respect for all the personnel who work in the State Fire Marshal’s office. The work they do for all Ohioans is a testament to their professionalism, commitment and dedication, and they continue to inspire me to achieve the high level of expectations they have established and maintain every day.

COVID-19 has brought with it a host of challenges, obstacles and limitations through which we must find our way. The situation is one that changes based on new information and data and it forces us as an organization to remain flexible, proactive and innovative. The new posture of working remotely has presented its share of challenges, but I am proud to say the team continues to accomplish our mission as best as possible given the current circumstances.

Once again, I appreciate the opportunity to serve as your state fire marshal and I look forward to working with you and all of the organizations that support the fire service in Ohio. In the future, I will be reaching out to meet with many of you and I look forward to what we can accomplish for Ohio. Have a great rest of the summer and remember that safety never takes a vacation.

Kevin S. Reardon
Ohio State Fire Marshal
SFM, OFCA Urge 'Safety First This Fourth'
with Fireworks Safety Campaign
By Brian Bohnert
Public Information Officer

The State Fire Marshal's office recently partnered with the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association (OFCA) on an outreach campaign to help ensure families put #SafetyFirstThisFourth and avoid many common summertime fire hazards.

The “Safety First This Fourth” campaign kicked off June 15 on the SFM and OFCA social media accounts with sparkler safety tips and best practices for campfires and hosting “socially distant” celebrations with friends and family.

The campaign continued through the month of June with useful tips for outdoor barbecues, a reminder about Ohio’s fireworks laws, and insight into the most common dangers associated with fireworks. SFM Fire Prevention Chief Ken Klouda also teamed with former OFCA President Chief Jonathan Westendorf on a pair of videos highlighting key safety tips and best practices for reporting unlicensed fireworks displays.

From June 15 through July 4, SFM's Facebook and Twitter accounts saw a 260-percent increase in post engagement — meaning, Ohioans were paying attention to our messaging! Our most popular post, a breakdown of Ohio's fireworks laws, garnered nearly 500 shares with a reach of more than 80,000 people.

If you or your department are interested in partnering on a fire safety message at any point throughout the year, contact us at brian.bohnert@com.ohio.gov .

If you haven’t already, be sure to “like” and “follow” SFM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay up to date on fire safety tips all year long!
SFM Investigation Bureau Sees Busy, Nontraditional Independence Day
By Josh Hobbs
Chief, Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau

SFM's Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau (FEIB) had a busy, nontraditional Fourth of July this year, fielding numerous calls and complaints regarding the use of illegal fireworks.

From June through early July, FEIB staff received calls from Ohioans reporting illegal displays or sales of fireworks — which resulted from a massive uptick in the sale of consumer-grade fireworks throughout the state. Staff was able to successfully mitigate the majority of complaints that created the greatest concern for public safety.

FEIB investigators conducted one seizure, and executed one search warrant during this time period. They are also currently investigating two serious fireworks injuries and assisting in the investigation of a fireworks-related fatality — all three stemming from separate incidents in southwest Ohio.
OFA Leverages Technology Amid COVID-19
to Bring Education to Ohio's Fire Service
By Stephanie Warner-Wilkins
OFA Registrar Supervisor

The Ohio Fire Academy (OFA) has adjusted to the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic and has begun leveraging technology to continue educating students.

On June 1, the dedicated and creative team at the OFA began offering instructor-led, virtual training for several key courses and, more recently, have started testing students in small numbers on campus. The virtual courses provide the same high-quality education students are used to in the classroom, but with greater affordability and the convenience of learning from the comfort of the home or fire station.

Moving forward, OFA staff are excited about resuming Firefighter I and II classes on campus in August and hope to provide other courses as time progresses.
SFM Introduces Paperless License Delivery
By Brian Bohnert
Public Information Officer

The State Fire Marshal's office has launched a convenient new feature that makes obtaining a license as simple as opening an email.

Whether renewing your license or requesting a new one, you will no longer have to wait for a printed copy to arrive in the mail — we're going paperless! All licenses issued by SFM's Testing and Registration Bureau (T&R) will now be sent directly via email.
This will serve as your actual license, which can be downloaded and printed, or saved to a mobile device such as a phone or tablet. This new process allows us to more efficiently leverage technology to better serve you our customers!
To update your email address with our office, contact T&R at webfmtr@com.state.oh.us .
Opportunities in CRR During a Global Pandemic
By Rich Palmer, CPM
Assistant Chief, Fire Prevention Bureau

I was challenged to provide an article on how fire departments can facilitate their Community Risk Reduction (CRR) efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before I share my thoughts, I’d like you to bookmark and visit these links courtesy of the IFE USA Branch Vision 20/20 project:

  1. CRR Education
  2. Coronavirus Shared Resource Library
  3. Download Social Media Ready Videos

About that article. I wrote. Then I wrote some more. Ultimately, I found myself echoing a recent article by Ed Comeau, career firefighter, producer/host of the podcast CRR Radio, founding executive team member of The Vision 20/20 Project and more. Rather than steal his words, I asked for his permission to redistribute them instead.

Check out Ed's article below and email us your thoughts at this address. Better yet, share what you are doing to navigate your risk reduction plan during this pandemic.
Paving the Cowpaths…

By Ed Comeau

An incredible amount of change has happened around the world in the past six months. COVID-19 is a terrible tragedy that is claiming hundreds of thousands of lives, putting an incredible strain upon health systems, first responders, front line workers, upending how we live our lives and how we work. It has brought about the most dramatic societal change on a global scale in recent history.

However, at the same time, it has created incredible opportunities for change. In a period of just three months, people started doing things that normally would have taken years to develop, test, evaluate, implement, re-evaluate, re-engineer, re-implement, re-re-evaluate…you get the idea.

Before March, how many of us were regularly Zooming?

Because of the speed of the change we have all been forced to adapt to new ways of living and working, whether we are in the fire service or not. And if there is one thing that I have seen over the years, that the fire service is very good at “adapting and overcoming” when it comes to emergencies. Fire fighters are great at solving problems, analyzing and reacting when there are lives on the line.

COVID-19 brought so many aspects of CRR to a screeching halt. Home safety visits? Pause. Station visits and tours? Nope. Community outreach? No way. CRR professionals started looking for alternatives they could do with existing tools to try and continue staying in touch with the community, and there were some very creative solutions. Reading to kids on Facebook, fire fighters doing science experiments on YouTube, graduation parades and much more.

Great, innovative ideas that were implemented quickly, in the heat of the moment, to bridge a gap. But now that things are starting to settle down a bit, and we are starting to get into a new rhythm, a new normal, we can take a closer look at the problems we are trying to solve, and how to solve them. And will these solutions work?

I’d like to circle back to what I said at the top of this article, that this is an incredible (incredible!) opportunity for change where we can try new ideas. And not just new ideas, but entirely new ways of approaching how we work, how we interact with the public, how we address the issues facing communities – and even addressing new issues that we never would have before.

But there is one caution I’d like to throw out there as we go down this road…

Let’s make sure we aren’t paving the cowpaths

So what does that mean?

I was listening to a podcast featuring Rory Sutherland from Ogilvy who is a world-renowned expert when it comes to applying behavioral science to…well, just about everything, and he was talking about how Boston is famous for its maze of streets. For any of you that have driven in Boston (I grew up in a suburb of Boston and drove a delivery truck in the city for several years) you know exactly what he is talking about. According to lore, Boston’s streets were created by just paving over the cowpaths instead of coming up with a system that made more sense.

In other words, they took the easy way out and didn’t use the opportunity to create something that would have worked better. You can see this dramatic difference in two areas of Boston – colonial Boston made up of “cowpath” streets and Back Bay, that was created years later by filling in a swamp and has a grid system of streets.

Coming back to CRR in our post-COVID-19 world, are we starting to just pave the cowpaths when we try and come up with solutions to bridge the gap in the new world we’re going to have to work in? Yes, there are tools out there, tried and true and established ways of doing things. But are these the right tool, the right solution, or are we just paving a cowpath?

There are so many ideas, ways of doing things, that we haven’t tried, or at least tried in the settings we are used to working in. There is technology, such as virtual reality, for example, that is being widely used in so many other industries, but not in the fire service. Could this play a role in doing community outreach in a whole new way with a generation that has grown up gaming?

The Right Risks?

Also, are we continuing to address risks that really aren’t the key risks in a community because we always have (also known as low hanging fruit)? I know this is going to sound heretical but…why are we continuing to focus so much effort on teaching kids fire safety?

We have been doing this for as long as I can remember and, if this approach works, by now we should now have the most fire-safe adult generation ever - but we don’t. Fire deaths have not been going down over the past two decades but have been leveling off, despite all these years of teaching kids fire safety. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, but are we getting the bang for our buck that we should, especially when budgets are going to be slashed post-COVID-19?

Civilian Home Fire Deaths and Rates per 1,000 Fires (1977-2018)
Are there other non-traditional risks in a community that the fire service 1) could be focusing its attention on, 2) would be effective in doing so and, 3) would have a far more dramatic impact in saving lives and improving the community?

How are people dying?

When we look at all deaths, 2.8 million people died in 2017 and the following chart shows the top ten leading causes. Fire deaths falls in to the “Accidents” category where a total of 169,936 people were killed by all causes, and out of that number 3,645 people died in fires according to the U.S. Fire Administration – only 2 percent of overall number of accidental fire deaths.

If we drill down a little bit deeper, every year, over 600,000 people die from cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is about 200 times more than those that die in fires. Or, to put it another way, fire deaths are 0.05% of CVD deaths. That’s one-half of one percent. The town where I live has never had a fire fatality, but we sure have had a lot of people die from CVD, and I’ll bet this plays out across the country. And this is just one particular risk where the fire service could have a role in partnering with other organizations to help improve cardiac health both pre- and post-event.

For more on this, you might want to read this article on LinkedIn: Does Cardiac Healthcare = CRR?.

Racial Disparities

Helping to address racial disparities is another area where CRR could have an impact. COVID-19 has also laid bare the racial disparities relating to public health where minorities are disproportionately dying, and it is believed that this is because of pre-existing conditions such as CVD, diabetes, obesity and much more. These, in turn can be related to issues such as lack of access to health care, food deserts and much more and these are areas where the fire service, in partnership with other community agencies and organizations, might be able to make a huge difference.

For more on this topic, read this article on LinkedIn: CRR and Racial Disparity

Wrapping up...

I would like to end with this thought...should we not “do the same thing in a different way,” but instead “do different things in different ways” that really can make a change?
Let’s not pave the cowpaths.

See the original version of Ed's article here .
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