From reactive to proactive and beyond

CarolinaFireJournal - John Scott Loftis
John Scott Loftis
04/21/2013 -

I was listening to a dear friend and colleague speak the other day, and this friend made the statement: “It’s a great day to be a firefighter in the state of South Carolina.” My friend used this quote a number of times during the talk that he was giving. I listened intently while he spoke, but that statement resounded through my head for the next few days, and still does on occasion. I thought about this statement frequently. My friend is right; it is a great day to be a firefighter in the state of South Carolina. Every day to me this statement rings true. Being a firefighter is the best job in the world, regardless of rank, or sub-category that you place yourself in, the title firefighter says it all. We share a common bond of service above self, and nothing else really matters beyond that.


Being a firefighter is the best job in the world, regardless of rank, or sub-category that you place yourself in, the title firefighter says it all. We share a common bond of service above self, and nothing else really matters beyond that.

I was fortunate to be born into this service, and lived a life of privilege because I, along with my brother, represent generation number three of four generations of our family now serving in the fire service of South Carolina. Being born into this service was truly a blessing because despite my age, I was able to grow up in a fire service that was truly the center of the community. Over the years in many places unfortunately we have seen this change, but it does still exist in several communities across our great state. I was invited recently to speak at a chief’s meeting in a rural community within our state. It was a fabulous meeting of kind people with family and other invited guests. I was taken back to the days of my youth when the sense of community in the fire service was obvious. It was a welcomed feeling. I stayed long after my presentation, just to enjoy the atmosphere.

In thinking back at how much the service has changed over the years, I began to understand that time is a fleeting resource in this day and age, and the electronic devices that were designed to allow us more time, have instead simply created a heavier workload for all of us. I live and work in a county that has a demographic that varies from one end of the scale to the other. Like most other fire and emergency organizations, we had shifted from being the center of the community, to only being available on an as needed basis. Our stations remain shuttered unless it is meeting time, or we have a call. I am proud to say that our stations are now in transition. We are once again becoming involved in our communities in a proactive manner instead of a reactive one. We are using our Fire and Life-Safety Education team to go out and engage the public. We are taking on projects with other county agencies to share our resources with them, as well as their resources with us. We are opening our doors to the citizens for joint ventures and establishing strong relationships that had somewhat degraded over time.

In looking at the potential effects of unemployment, Rising healthcare costs, and even political policies, many in our communities cannot afford preventive medical care. One of the services that my organization provides is pre-hospital care via the role of Emergency Medical Response. While there is little intervention that can be taken at this level, we have devised a way to make the best of the resources that we have. We are undertaking the challenge of community based pre-need care; we are using the models created by our stations and our Fire and Life-Safety Educators. We are customizing these programs to provide preventive medical care.

Our plan is to open our stations, and rescue squads up to the community on certain days, during certain times to provide free preventive medical services like blood pressure checks, health and fitness coaching, diabetic counseling, and other services that assist our citizens with learning how to prevent the need for emergency medical care and general wellness. Our plans include partnerships with other organizations like the local hospital system, health department, and even some other commercial partners that have a vested interest in the health and well-being of our citizens.

By using local resources, including the responders of the local fire department and/or rescue squad, you are able to give back to your community before they require it via an emergency. By assisting the citizen before the emergency, it allows you not only to save civilian lives due to illness and injury, it also allows you to potentially save responder lives through a reduction in calls for service. By providing preventive care and services, you are once again building back the relationship between the organization and the citizen.

Building relationships like this will go a long way during times of organizational need as well. We all know that providing quality emergency services is expensive, and only affects a limited number of people per year. By providing these proactive services, you are able to exponentially multiply the positive interactions with your citizens, and provide them with a service that is leaps and bounds above those who provide only in times of emergent need.

It is a great day to be a firefighter in the state of South Carolina. It is a great day, because we share ideas, encourage one another, and help each other out every chance we get. We have evolved into one of the strongest, most comprehensive state fire services around.

Firefighters in South Carolina are proactive. We are changing the face of fire and emergency services across the globe. We are able to do this because we remain service based and we are proactive. We are fortunate to have had, and currently have many great leaders in this service who are not afraid to challenge the status quo, who reach out to science, and who are not afraid to get out of the comfort zone and ask the all-important question of why? Indeed, it is a great day to be a firefighter in the state of South Carolina, because we are service based from the top down, and great service to all is what we strive to provide.

Scott Loftis is a third generation firefighter from Upstate South Carolina. He began his formal journey in the Fire Service over 20 years ago. He is very active in the areas of training and leadership development. Loftis currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the S.C. Fire Academy Advisory Committee, the Training and Education Committee of the SC State Firefighters’ Association, The Planning Committee of the South Carolina State Firefighter’s Association, and the Technical Training Committee of the South Carolina State Firefighter’s Association and serves as the Chief of Training for Oconee County Emergency Services. He can be contacted at [email protected] or 864-844-6001.
Comments & Ratings

  4/26/2013 4:07:37 PM

New Comment 
Great article!

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