Black Sheep Rebel Club Rule #4
Maintain an open, but skeptical mind. Learn not just how to perform a skill, but why it is performed that way. Do not accept a method as “the only way” simply because it is written in a textbook. Realize that all educational information is susceptible to inaccuracies, whether from in-house sources, outside instructors, or even accredited curriculum. Even the best resources may teach some methods that simply cannot be applied to your department’s specific circumstances. Continually analyze your own operations for shortcomings, be humble enough to acknowledge the need for improvement, and be willing to make changes when necessary.
Black Sheep Rebel Club Rule #1
Firm, blunt, and to the point because sometimes that’s the only way to get the message across. Not everyone does things the way that you do. Not everyone likes the tools that you do. We come from many regions, departments, and backgrounds. None of us is perfect. That guy may not be the greatest firefighter the world has ever seen, but neither are you. It is perfectly acceptable to engage in a respectful, professional exchange regarding our differences, but don’t cross the line. Take a look in the mirror before you start throwing rocks and play nice.
Black Sheep Rebel Club Rule #24
Every repeated action, good or bad, builds our fireground habits. Repeated complacency yields complacent habits and poor performance. Remaining in a constant state of readiness, even when responding to a regular false-alarm address, builds proper habits and automation of basic skills. It’s better to be overdressed for the malfunctioning alarm, than to be unprepared for the working fire.
For the past few months, I’ve been posting a trickle of photo posts, each with a numbered “rule” attributed to the Black Sheep Rebel Club. To this point, no real explanation or context has been given regarding the posts. So, who are these Black Sheep, why do they have so many rules, and why don’t they post them in numerical order?
The Black Sheep Rebel Club (BSRC) is a secret society of like-minded members of the fire service. The only real secret regarding membership is that most Black Sheep simply don’t know that they are members. There is no application, no initiation, no entry fee, and no mandatory meetings. The only requirement is that you must be a motivated student of the trade, dedicated to mastery of this age-old craft, and constantly striving for improvement of yourself, your company, and your department. If those characteristics describe you, then you are already in. There are hard-working individuals across the nation, and world, who are members of their own local chapter without even knowing it.
Why do we call ourselves the Black Sheep Rebel Club? We are made up of an eclectic group of rogues, misfits, and outcasts. Black Sheep would rather be throwing ladders and stretching lines than watching the ballgame. We would rather be in our turnouts than in a recliner. We would rather be hitting the gym than taking a nap. We believe that a certificate from the academy does not guarantee skill retention and constant repetition of those skills is required to maintain them. We realize that, whether volunteer or career, the citizens we serve deserve the best possible performance from us on every run, day or night. We realize that fires on Sunday require the same preparation as those on weekdays. We believe in staying combat ready, being prepared, and expecting fire. We believe that the fireground is better run with common sense, hard work, and simple, flexible, and adaptable plans. We believe that there are many methods to accomplishing fireground tasks, each geared to a different situation, and confining yourself to strict, easy-button, rule-bound tactics will leave you boxed into a corner when confronted with the unexpected. This mindset is not always welcome in departments where firefighters are the minority, outnumbered by “fire department employees”. This can leave the dedicated individuals, companies, or shifts feeling like, well, black sheep. We embrace the shadows and encourage each other to fight the complacent current.
The Rules of the Black Sheep are a set of rules-of-thumb for both fireground operations and general fire service life. The idea was inspired by the Red Team Rules, a set of rules for “Red Teams” which were in turn inspired by the Moscow Rules, a set of rules that are said to have been guidelines for clandestine operatives in the Cold War era. Red Teams are described as “a group of highly skilled professionals that continuously challenge the plans, defensive measures and security concepts of an organization”. Essentially, they are paid by large corporations and government agencies to act as “attackers” and attempt to infiltrate the organization’s physical and cyber infrastructure, exposing security weaknesses in the process. I thought that some of the original rules could work for the fire service, so most of the Black Sheep Rules are taken or adapted from the Red Team/Moscow Rules. I have also added some original rules to the list, most of which were inspired by other Black Sheep. I attribute credit to those individuals/organizations where applicable.
The full list of rules is still a fluid project with some being added or deleted occasionally. The rules that have been posted publicly are those that are firmly set in place and will not be removed. This is why the publicly posted rules jump around in numerical order (also, I think it’s just an interesting way to release them). The rules are also open to amendment by the membership, so feel free to suggest a rule for addition to the list by emailing ELAFFHQ@gmail.com or messaging the ELAFF Facebook page. The current list contains 31 rules. Once all of the rules are posted in their individual artsy-photo format, I will publish the entire finalized list.
How far will the BSRC movement spread? What will we come up with next? It’s anybody’s guess. As ELAFF grows farther away from the original inside-joke that started it, I’ve contemplated converting the whole project over to the BSRC name. I’ve also considered adding separate pages for the BSRC to avoid erasing the “ELAFF Legacy”. Who knows where this will go. Time will tell.
Black Sheep Rebel Club Rule #28
You can spend twenty years progressively improving or you can repeat your first-year twenty times. The difference depends on your attitude and self-motivation. Make the most of your time on the job. Work to improve yourself daily, regardless of agency requirements. Don’t be content with mediocre performance; push toward mastery of skills.
Black Sheep Rebel Club Rule #27
Officers must recognize that, at some point, a member of their crew may know more than them in some subject. Good officers recognize the strengths of their crew and allow them to shine. Lead, direct, and focus the various abilities of your crew and they will excel in any situation. Smother them with micro-management and suppress their strengths in fear of revealing your own weaknesses and your entire company will fall short.
Black Sheep Rebel Club Rule #2
If it is efficient, relatively safe, and effective; then it is the “right” method. So, the “book” only shows one way or your last class only taught you one method? That doesn’t mean it is the end-all, fix-all, works-everytime procedure. There are many “right” methods to solve fireground problems and which one is “best” depends on the circumstances. Learning many solutions to the same problem allows you to quickly adapt, overcome, and succeed when the first-choice, “best” method fails.