How 9/11 changed the way firefighters do their jobs in Madison

MADISON, Wis.– Our lives have changed in many ways in the 20 years since 9/11. For us, that’s meant longer lines and more security at airports. For local firefighters, it’s meant more training and increasing the importance of certain jobs, like building inspections.

Scott Strassburg is one of the people who keeps Madison and its most important buildings safe. Strassburg works as a Code Enforcement Officer for the Madison Fire Department. Twice a year, he inspects some of the city’s most complex buildings, like the Capitol and hospitals, and ensures they’re up to code.

Strassburg says people in his line of work learned a lot from 9/11.

“How did people get down?” he explained in an interview with News 3 Now. “What problems did they have? How can we make our buildings better?”

Those are just a few of the questions firefighters like Strassburg had to answer after the first bombing at the World Trade Center, and then again, post-9/11.

“We looked at what went wrong: why did the power go out?” Strassburg said.

Although Madison doesn’t have skyscrapers, it does have dozens of high-rise apartment buildings, with more currently under construction. Code Enforcement Officers make sure their stairwells are lit and labeled, with photo-luminescent tape and signs, so people can see what level they’re on, should they need to evacuate quickly.

Measures like these are part of the post-2001, industry-wide shift in firefighting.

“30 years ago, when I was in training, they’d teach us what to do if there’s a fire outside, what to do if there’s a fire inside, and what to do if there’s a car fire,” said Strassburg. “Now, you look at the huge amount of things we have to learn.”

From the creation of an ‘Urban Rescue Team’ to weapons of mass destruction training, firefighters now undergo a range of training to make sure they, and everyone who lives in Madison, are ready for anything.

What you can do

The anniversary of 9/11 reinforces how fortunate we are to have hundreds of men and women ready and willing to sacrifice their lives to protect ours. If you would like to take a moment to say thank you to the first responders that keep your neighborhood safe, you can find the address of your nearest fire station here.