COVID-19: This is our generation’s test

Firefighters are resilient and will survive this ultimate challenge


It seems each generation is tested. Some is good and some is bad – but it is still a test.

My parents lived through the Great Depression and then World War II. Their generation rolled up their sleeves. Sixteen million men and women put on uniforms while others supported the war efforts at home in the manufacturing plants. I am always amazed at the numbers that were generated: 297,000 aircraft, 193,000 artillery pieces, 86,000 tanks, 2 million army trucks and 17 aircraft carriers – all in four years.

Other generations have been tested in a good way, including President Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the moon within 10 years. Many of our relatives were members of that workforce of over 400,000 that landed two men on the moon in 1969.

The COVID-19 pandemic will be the test of our generation – a test that will not only place a hardship on the United States, but the rest of the world. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The COVID-19 pandemic will be the test of our generation – a test that will not only place a hardship on the United States, but the rest of the world. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The COVID-19 pandemic will be the test of our generation – a test that will not only place a hardship on the United States, but the rest of the world. How we handle this crisis will define our generation for years to come. Many lessons have been learned from past pandemics, including the loss of over 50 million people worldwide from the Spanish flu. Lessons will be learned from this pandemic also.

At the frontline of this trial will be firefighters and EMS personnel and their chief officers. The vast majority of what the fire service does is respond to medical calls. The fire service is the largest provider of EMS in the United States. Therefore, along with many others, we will be the soldiers doing battle against this invisible enemy, not from a remote command center, but on the frontlines.

What people look for during times of crisis is leadership. Fire chiefs must demonstrate leadership during these harsh times. The citizens and your firefighters are looking to you for that leadership during uncertain times.

Do not add to the panic in your community and department, as we have seen with others on TV who are rushing to the stores for toilet paper and anything else that can fly off the shelf. We should exude calmness and civility. If the leadership is in panic, it does not bode well for those who look to us during difficult times.

This will not only be our generation’s test, but a test of those at the frontline – firefighters and EMS personnel. I am confident we as a people and as a fire service will come through this challenge. We are a resilient people.

As I like to say, there is always a green light after the red light. 

[Read next: IAFC president says fire and EMS ‘orphaned’ by Congress and Trump]

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