Before Jim Carrey catapulted to fame on the big screen he was a cast member on the sitcom, “In Living Color”. He portrayed a character named Fire Marshal Bill whose scarred face and safety advisories included demonstrating (usually on himself) the very disaster he was warning against. The slapstick comedy was a hilarious parody of Fire Marshals everywhere which is why I began looking for similarities when I met real life Fire Inspector Marty Wolding.
I’ve been attending school safety inspections throughout Aurora as a police representative and I wondered if anyone else at the meetings was attempting to parallel Fire Marshal Bill with Fire Inspector Marty. Fortunately for the well being of every school-aged child in the City of Aurora, Marty bears no similarities to Jim Carrey’s character. (My thoughts otherwise were only short-lived senses of private amusement in my own head which is not uncommon for me).
In fact, Fire Inspector Marty takes his job very seriously. This is evidenced by the posse of school officials that follow him around school campuses scribbling feverishly as he barks out the not-so-obvious hazards along the way. I don’t think like a firefighter so he has my undivided attention when he points out the seemingly harmless dangers in the school environment. During our visit to a west side elementary school, Inspector Marty advised the principal that the artwork on the walls was nearing the 50% accumulation rule and no more could be affixed. He explained that if the artwork were to ignite, the paper would accelerate the flames and sternly advised that flames travel faster than people. At one point, Marty actually began removing chains made of construction paper because they were dangling in a hallway corridor. What I see as children’s’ art, he sees as a fire hazard and makes no apologies for removing anything that would compromise the safety and well being of a child.
I attend these meetings with several other police officers so we can offer a perspective on the procedures to take should a dangerous incident occur on school grounds. Police officers and fire fighters are first responders but the situation dictates who will take the lead. When responding to a fire, the police assist the firefighters to make their jobs easier. Conversely, if an incident is criminal in nature, the fire department will stage on the scene and follow our lead. Since we work in tandem, it is crucial that these inspections are attended by representatives from each of our respective professions.
You may not often think of the planning and preparation that goes into critical incident training. You may not even know that your child had a fire or lockdown drill since school went back in session. Most people don’t concern themselves with preparedness because they honestly believe that tragedies only happen to other people. That very mind-set could be the difference between life and death and so it is imperative that you talk with your kids about the importance of these drills.
People like Fire Inspector Marty, along with scores of dedicated Aurora firefighters and police officers, work very hard behind the scenes to make sure tragedies are prevented. We work even harder to prepare ourselves and our schools should a serious incident occur. We also encourage school officials to impress upon their staffs the seriousness of the drills. First responders have learned that you play like you practice so it is crucial that school administration lead the charge in getting as close to perfect as possible.
I was very pleased to hear from my daughter that they had a drill at her school and had to run through it again because they weren’t quiet enough. In a real disaster, that school will be prepared thanks to a dedicated staff who understand the importance of training. In the police and fire professions we believe the more you sweat in training the less you will bleed in battle.