Metropolis, IL

Opinion

When things get a little heated

Thursday, February 23, 2017 - Updated: 9:35 AM
Susan Odum
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 2000 people lose their lives in residential fires every year in the U.S. A majority of fatal fires happen when families are asleep, so having a properly installed and maintained smoke alarm standing guard for you around the clock is considered to be one of the best and least expensive ways of providing an early warning of a potentially deadly fire. When the alarm first senses smoke, it sounds a shrill alarm, allowing precious, but limited, time to escape (www.cpsc.gov). Once you and your family are safely outside the structure, the local fire department is called into action.     
Upon their arrival, they may be able to quickly identify the source of the fire and extinguish it without any serious damage to your home, or perhaps their role may be to contain the fire to your residence while saving your vehicle, your exterior structures or the neighborhood from damage. In addition to residential fires, local departments also respond to incidents on our roadways, and to fire events at commercial structures, farm buildings and in our fields and forests.      
Sadly, the news and social media are full of heartbreaking stories, like the massive wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in late November 2016. Most of us have either experienced a fire event or know someone who has — perhaps, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker or another family member. A fire destroyed the residence of two of my family members. Due to the conviction of a 4-year old who understood the importance of getting out of the house and calling the fire department when he smells smoke, learned during a fire safety program provided to his Head Start class by one of our local fire departments, he is now 8 and his big sister is 12.    
I recently read a Facebook post by a friend who outlined that a fire broke out in her roof during the night while she was sleeping. Her post offered a huge THANK YOU to the local fire department for their promptness and professionalism while identifying the source of the fire. Her post closed with: “We feel very blessed to be part of our community.”   
Whether your local fire department has volunteer or paid staff, funding to support the department comes from a variety of sources, including local, state and federal. Many of our rural communities throughout the state also seek out grant funding in an effort to keep their departments operating. Despite the specific funding source, the harsh reality is that funding is required to keep the fire trucks rolling, keep the staff at the ready and to keep the equipment in good working order.    
When faced with a shrill alarm awakening us from our sleep at 2 in the morning, we expect the fire truck to come rolling in. Therefore, there is no better time to remind the residents of Illinois that Spending Locally First ensures the department will be there if things get a little heated.   
The State of Illinois, and many of our municipalities and counties, especially those in the rural regions of the state, are experiencing unprecedented fiscal challenges. Stagnant or declining revenue streams as a result of buying patterns that no longer support local businesses, which generate tax revenues and provide local jobs, are plaguing our rural regions. This new reality is placing increased pressure on local governments and other taxing districts to provide essential services, such as fire protection. The resulting dilemma for local governments is to identify new ways to balance the budget. This can mean increasing revenues (i.e. raising taxes), cutting expenses or a combination of the two. Either way, rural residents lose, as they either pay higher taxes and/or have fewer services available.    
Therefore, in the simplest of terms, the more money we spend locally and within our state, the more tax dollars we will generate to support our state, county and municipal budgets, resulting in more resources to fund the fire departments that provide fire safety education and respond to our emergency calls.  
Certainly, there may be “perceived” lower cost alternatives available online, or perhaps, just across the border in a neighboring state, but the reality is when you purchase items and pay sales taxes out of state, you are supporting their state, county and municipal budgets, not ours.   
In a nut shell, if essential public services, such as fire protection, are important to you, then shopping local SHOULD be important to you, because it provides the resources needed for emergency response efforts to occur.  


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