Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Hi-Vis Canaries in the Coal Mine

In most countries, emergency responders are seen - and see themselves - as non-political.  Police and ambulance officers, firefighters, marine rescuers and the like are arms of the executive government.  They have the task of carrying out its policies and giving advice, but not of shaping policy.

Because of this, emergency responders are also affected by government policy somewhat more directly than most.  For example, mandated workplace safety standards or building codes can spell danger to firefighters called to respond to a incidents.  Police are particularly likely to be affected by decisions at a political level as to firearms laws or funding of medical care.

Would public policy be improved by treating emergency personnel, not simply as a means of mitigation, but as metaphorical canaries in the coal mine?  If we know that firefighters will be affected in responding to volcanic activity, how would this affect where people are allowed to build homes or operate farms?  If it is foreseen that rising sea levels may affect maritime rescuers, how would this shape government responses to climate change?  And would these altered approached be desirable?

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