How do firefighters die?

By J. C. Bailey III

I’ve seen movies and television shows about firefighting and am acquainted with numerous first responders. I would think the biggest risks would be smoke inhalation or being trapped in a collapsed structure. I would be wrong. In their excellent book “Scarcity” Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir point out that firefighters are dying in motor vehicle accidents at an alarming rate. They point out that although these professionals are wonderfully prepared for emergencies they become so focused on responding to the fire that they neglect to fasten their seat belts. They would never drive their personal vehicles without wearing seat belts, but the time scarcity of responding to the emergency causes them to “tunnel”, “to focus single mindedly on managing the scarcity at hand”.

The scarcity for those first responders is a lack of time. For many of us it is a lack of money. Our single minded focus on making this month’s payment can cause us to ignore the consequences of the further extension of credit, the cash advance, or the payday loan. One of the best ways to avoid this destructive and potentially financially fatal tunneling is to talk to a professional. A consultation with an objective party could help you stop the cycle of borrowing at punitive interest rates in order to survive the month. There may be alternatives to the vicious cycle you find yourself in and the professionals you speak to will not be surprised nor judgmental about your circumstances.