How the Summit Fire Department has Changed Since 9/11
Thursday, September 20, 2012 • 9:56am
SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Fire Department is one of the few accredited departments in the state and is made up of volunteers and full time staff, but according Chief Joseph Houck it is “the best of both worlds.” In the past 11 years, since the attacks on 9/11, the department has grown and become stronger, the chief said.
“I’ve always known the mission of the fire service to be what everybody else won’t do,” Houck said. “Whenever there’s a need I think the fire service does an excellent job of filling that need.”
Houck has been with the department since 1985 and has been the chief for four and a half years. However, his career as a fireman dates back longer than he would like to admit.
Looking back on Sept. 11, 2001, Houck said he never would have imagined that today he and his staff would be taking anti-terrorist training courses. The classes were always offered, but people didn’t think twice about them, he said. Now, if an individual doesn’t attend them, not only are they behind the curve, but they are endangering themselves and other people, he said.
“I got to believe the biggest change is a change of mindset,” he said. “Terrorism and domestic preparedness is something we were sort of doing, but not formally. We never really considered ourselves a first responder to a terrorist bombing.”
Since Sept.11, the challenge has been motivating and teaching firemen not to rush inside of a building or home, but rather take a minute and assess the situation, he said. Twenty years ago, this was simply not the case, Houck said. Furthermore, if there is an explosion, firemen need to look for secondary devices as well, he said.
The relationships have grown between the police, fire and emergency squad units, as well. After 9/11, people were more fearful than ever and needed their police and fire departments to be strong and protect them, he said.
“I think what we did, is take a good relationship and enhance it to make it even better,” the chief said.
Houck said he is extremely proud to be a member of the Summit Fire Department. There is a terrific staff, where every full time person had to start out as a volunteer. Also, everyone is heavily involved in the community. They are coaches, active with TRYCAN, PAL and hold events year round for the community.
“It’s not the chief that does the work, it’s the men and women in the fire department,” Houck said. “That doesn’t happen everywhere. People have ties to community and want to give back. So although it’s a two way street, the guys benefit from employment in the city of Summit, but they realize how fortunate we are and how tight this community is and they give back as often as they can.”