Opinion – 4/4/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The Panolian: OPINIONS

 From the 4/4/06 issue of The Panolian :                 
Prevention cost effective for city

"A fire department is to a city budget like the defense department is to the national budget," a former city official once observed. His point was that the potential for spending money from the city’s budget on fire equipment, personnel and training is almost unlimited.

A city’s heavy investment in fire protection provides direct benefit to owners of business, industrial and residential property. A lowered fire insurance rating means reductions in the cost of insurance premiums property owners have to pay for fire insurance coverage.

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The problem is that for city government to replenish its coffers from savings in fire insurance premiums, it must must increase the taxes on the property. That’s never a popular solution for elected officials with budget woes.

And budgets for fire and police protection can never be weighed quid pro quo. Firefighters and police deal with emergencies which are scary and life-threatening. Discussion of their funding is always going to invoke emotions connected with life and death.

During the last decade, the Batesville Fire Department has undertaken several programs quite removed from the adrenaline-saturated roles firefighters assume during responses to emergencies. Efforts at increasing seat belt usage among young drivers and placing smoke alarms in homes throughout the city are attempts to prevent heart-breaking tragedies from auto crashes and fires.

Though not as dramatic as responding to emergency calls, firefighters have recognized the worth of prevention and put their hearts into it.

During last month’s "Be in the Click" seat belt awareness campaign at the high school, Rip Copeland, BFD fire and life safety officer, conceded that as an unbuckled 17-year-old, he had miraculously survived being thrown through the windshield of a pickup as it rolled over. However, it has been recent tragedies involving young people killed in auto accidents that has given a sense of urgency to Copeland, other firefighters and police officers as they try to convince young people to "click" their seat belts on.

This month, firefighters will go door-to-door in east Batesville during late afternoons. They will be giving away smoke alarms and checking smoke alarm batteries for residents who will let them. By the time the three-year program has been completed later this month, a smoke alarm and/or batteries will have been offered to every residence in the city.

Auto accidents, fires and the deaths, injuries and property damage that they cause create great economic hardships on victims and their families, not to mention the other losses which defy calculation.

Prevention programs are our best answer to avoiding those losses. Though calculating the savings in dollars is elusive because none of us can know what might have been prevented, they are nevertheless cost effective.



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