When we first enter the fire service, motivation is easy to find. As a probie, we are well aware that we are the weak link of the team. We are at the bottom of our department’s ladder. Everyone is our superior. The urge to improve is strong. We strive to become a contributing asset to the company, rather than a liability that everyone must keep an eye on. We are constantly challenged and made uncomfortable as we are outperformed by those around us.
As we gain experience and our skills improve, we begin to rise on the ladder of seniority. New hires come in below us and we surpass the abilities of some less-motivated, senior “employees”. We begin to feel comfortable in our department’s little “bubble”. We are familiar with everyone’s abilities and how they compare to our own. We are safe and secure.
If we remain in this “bubble”, we can easily convince ourselves that we have little room for improvement. This is especially true if we are one of our department’s top performers. Slowly, the challenge to improve disappears. The drive to advance dissipates. Comfort gives way to complacency. We become stagnant.
Step outside the “security bubble” of our department and it quickly becomes apparent that we are not so great after all. There are individuals nationwide who outperform you on nearly every level. Expose yourself to new ideas and methods. Challenge yourself to match the skills of tradesmen across the country. Do your best to maintain a level of slight discomfort in your abilities; the knowledge that you may be good, but you can still be better. Spread this discomfort to those around you. Attack the status quo of mediocrity. Challenge your company and department to overcome the plague of apathy and complacency created by a comfortable existence.
Do not become stagnant. Keep moving forward. You aren’t as great as you think you think you are and you can always be better tomorrow.
Solving the problems of the world has long been a favorite activity at the firehouse kitchen table. Now that we are in the “Facebook Age”, the discussions have expanded on to a national, online forum. This change has resulted in some great benefits through exposure to new ideas and methods. However, the instant and impersonal communication can also create stubborn stances and impolite responses that would likely be avoided in a face-to-face encounter.
Social media discussions allow one to reply instantly, but anonymously, and without the accountability found during direct conversations. The most obvious consequence of this is the decline or lack of manners between participants. In addition, internet arguers often become staunch and immovable supporters of their positions. The comfort of remote debates makes it too easy for one to dismiss all differing ideas without any consideration. A discussion over the use of radio straps versus a radio pocket turns into a repetitive chorus chanting, “I’m right; you’re wrong!” The most zealous will go beyond just disagreeing and declare all differing methods to be idiotic or deadly. Threads spool on for dozens, or hundreds, of comments with proponents of all sides screaming, “Your way will get you killed!” like two walls talking to each other. The truth of the matter is that ANY way will get you killed if you are unfamiliar with it.
The benefit of the online forum is that we can hear these new ideas, push back from the desk for a minute, and physically try them for ourselves. Rather than arguing perpetually, put the method in question to a real life test. By setting aside your preconceived notions, you might learn something new, or you may just prove your point. Either way, you will accomplish more than if you had continued to angrily slap your keyboard. Regardless of the outcome, remember that just because a method doesn’t work for you and your department, it doesn’t mean that it is automatically a “death trap”. You must accept that it may work very well for another department with different staffing, different equipment, or a different mindset.
In the end, we must often learn to just agree to disagree. Whether you like it or not, there is “more than one way to skin a giraffe”(and some of the best methods aren’t listed in the “red book”). Perhaps it would be best to limit our Facebook activity to clicking “like” and “share”. Leave the big debates to the tailboard, the kitchen table, or a bar in Indianapolis. The next time you find yourself sucked into the vortex of misunderstanding and hate that is a Facebook debate, have an open mind and remember the words of the Dude, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
It’s been a long week at ELAFF HQ and the list is a little late going out, but here it is:
- We Are Not Cyborgs – Gea Leigh Haff, Fire Service Warrior
We had an especially tough fire in the “ELAFF Local” last weekend. This post went up on the FSW main site within 48 hours, just in time to read it prior to heading to the CISD myself. A fine article and excellent reminder.
- 35′ of Getting the Job Done – Firefighter Basics
“There is hardly a reason to have more than 2 members raising the 35′ ladder. The job does go quicker with 3 people but usually the 3rd person gets in the way.”
- That Idea Would Never Work Here! – Craig Nelson & Dane Carley, Fire Engineering
“Why are new ideas important to the fire service and, more specifically, to your department? Ideas turn into innovation, and innovation is how departments adapt to a changing environment.”
- Tactical Nozzle Considerations – Dan Doyle, Fire Engineering
Here’s the list:
- Around Here – Mark vonAppen, Fire Service Warrior
“Cuts to training budgets can no longer be an excuse. We have to invest in ourselves. In order to win the fight, we have to be in the fight. Being in the fight means doing it on your own and leading from everywhere.”
- An Honest Look at Training – Ryan Royal, Irons and Ladders
One from the archives of Irons and Ladders.
“Focus on practical training with street value. Each time you set up a drill ask yourself what can I do to make this more realistic, how can I add practical teaching points to this, and then when we get this step right, how can I make it more challenging?”
- These Firefighters Who Are ‘aging out’ Are Still the Bravest – Denis Hamil, New York Daily News
A mainstream media look at the age-mandated retirement of two FDNY members, including the Rescue 1’s Capt. Morris, a name that you should be familiar with.
“Capt. Robert Morris of Rescue 1 and Firefighter Kenny Ruane of Ladder 16, both in Manhattan, will ‘age out’ at 65 this weekend, but after all they’ve been through they still want to work with FDNY, among the city’s bravest.”
- A video from the NY Daily News covering Capt. Morris’ final tour on Rescue 1.
Here’s the list:
- A Hero W.O.D. in honor of the Granite Mountain 19 from Fire Service Warrior:
19 mountain climbers
3 mile run
19 mountain climbers
45 lb. vest/pack
- Study of the Effectiveness of Fire Service Vertical Ventilation and Suppression Tactics in Single Family Homes – Steve Kerber, UL FSRI
Don’t let the long title scare you. Take some time to read it in pieces, or print out the summary report to look over with your crew. Discuss the findings, how they could potentially affect your department’s operations, and how they might affect your personal considerations. Depending on your department, this may be old news common-sense that has been taught at the academy for decades or it could be some revolutionary information. Either way, it shouldn’t be dismissed or overlooked. Take the data for what it is and work it out for yourself.
- The Missing Pieces of Firefighter Survival – Brian Bush, Fire Service Warrior
“Firefighters must be presented with the true context of situations where lives are being threatened. The belief that situational awareness can be maintained during chaotic events; that firefighters will be able to function at full capacity, recall and execute training, and communicate in a highly dynamic environment is false (Gasaway, 2012).”
- Firefighter PASS Device Study Yields Surprising Results – NFPA Fire Service Today
“During one experiment a small trash can fire was lit to see what effect a small fire had on the sound of the PASS alarm signal. The sound became muffled and quieter and the fire seemed to merge the multiple tones into one sound.”
*I try to catch as many articles as possible, but I inevitably miss some. If you see anything worth learning from, send me an email at ELAFFHQ@gmail.com.
Here’s the list:
- Halligan – streetsmart firefighter
“Three articles about the most versatile tool in the fire service. Take the time to get better every day.”
- Choices – Irons and Ladders
“For all of the new guys, these are CHOICES. It is up to you! We can tell which one you choose.”
- The Most Important 6 Inches – Jason Jefferies, Fire Service Warrior
From the FSW Archives:
“Take a good hard look at your gear and how wear it into combat. Screwdrivers, door chocks, webbing, and various other “add ons” are useful, but where we position the most important items that could save your life is one of the most important decisions you will make.”
- MacGruber Bag – Gary Lane, Fire Service Warrior
Another one from the FSW Archives:
“This is just one way I’ve been able to stay in a “Warriors mindset” without over burdening myself with an extra 20 pounds of stuff in my pockets.”
- Registration is open for the 2013 Colorado 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Here’s a video from the event last year, which I was able to participate in. SIGN UP HERE!
- Registration is also open for the 2013 Charlotte Stair Climb. I climbed in Charlotte last year and will be climbing there again. SIGN UP HERE!
Here’s your weekend reading assignment:
- Mentors – Mark VonAppen, Fully Involved
“You never know when a mentor will show up, who they will be, or how they are to influence you or your life as a whole. We might not know how someone has molded us until years later as we hear his or her words echoed in our own.”
- Because We Can – Jonah Smith, Fire Service Warrior
“As you sit down at the firehouse, you can think about whether to retire to the recliner for the day or find something to train on. I am sure that there are plenty of fallen firefighters’ families wishing that their loved one could be training with you shoulder-to-shoulder every day you work.”
- Developing Door Control Doctrine – Ed Hartin, CFBT-US
“Fire scene photos go up by the hundreds daily on the Internet. Critiquing them for best in “Equipment Omission” does not solve safety issues. It makes you look petty.”
- Focus – Dan Manning, Fire Service Warrior
A look back in the FSW archives with this Dan Manning post.
“To be truly great at our business takes a lot of work — a lot of work for the entirety of your career. If you find yourself not working too hard you may have hit a plateau from which you need to keep building and learning.”
- Finally, stay up to date on the latest research from the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute by giving their new Facebook page a “like”.
Also, check out their main site at http://ulfirefightersafety.com/