Not So Much A Shame
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”
There were many excellent classes presented at FDIC 2013. Some presented new, ground-breaking information, while others taught the good-old (but oft forgotten) basics. The following three classes, which feature both new and old information, were recorded and posted online. They all center around UL and NIST research and they all contain valuable information. I was able to attend the live presentation of “Why ‘That’s the Way We’ve Always Done it’ is NOT Good Enough.” These videos have been circulating around Facebook for a while, but there are still those without Facebook accounts, so I’m posting all three here. Bookmark this post and watch them at your own pace, but please watch them. The information presented may reveal misconceptions held by you or your department, or it may be simply be a refresher of common knowledge. Either way, it is worth your time.
FDIC 2013 – FDNY, NIST, UL Technical Panel Discussion
FDIC 2013 – WHY “That’s the Way We’ve Always Done it” is NOT Good Enough
FDIC 2013 – Why Thermal Flowpaths Are Key to Successful Firefighting
It’s been a while since I wrote a legitimate article here. I’ve been focusing more on self-improvement and handling local business and have slightly neglected this site. Those of you that follow ELAFF on Facebook know that I continue to share the good works of other minds on a regular basis, and that’s the point. There are an overwhelming number of brilliant minds writing and teaching in the fire service today. With this in mind, I raised the level of scrutiny regarding what I deemed worth posting for the world to see. I’ve never even written a “training” article, anyway. I’ve simply scribbled down the random musings and odd opinions of my mind. Rest assured, I will continue to write, however it may not always be hosted here and I can’t guarantee the frequency.
So with that in mind, I’d like to try something new here…by ADDING to the many voices out there. Sort of hypocritical, but stick with me.
I will be posting a guest post from a Local in the near future. He sent me a draft to look over and I told him that I would just post whatever he wanted to say right here on ELAFFHQ.com. So, perhaps YOU have a few words to say, but you don’t want to create “Fire Blog #1,957,372” just for a single post. Maybe you’d like to rant about transitional ventilation, the 7-9-8 attack line, or retail packaging that’s too hard to open. Maybe you have some witty satire piece that will leave sarcasm-blind readers in a stupor. Maybe you have a piece of motivational messaging that you’d like to share, or some pseudo-hipster slam poetry on budget cuts and plastic helmets. One paragraph or 10, 200 words or 2,000, it doesn’t matter. I’ll take it if you meet the requirements:
- You must include your real name, and preferably an email address, too. You may write whatever you want, but you’ll have to stand by it when the wolves come running…or the adoring fans, whichever.
- I reserve the right to omit submissions as I please, for any and all reasons. I may also refer to various colleagues for their opinion on your submission prior to posting. The standards won’t be too stringent, though.
- Despite the context of #2, I do not have to AGREE with what you write. I asked Matt to write whatever he wanted as Captain Chaos, regardless of my opinion. In fact, I don’t even completely agree with everything that I’ve previously written. Still, my previous posts remain accessible, as will your future posts.
This may become a forum for the fire service “everyman” to share his thoughts. Then again, it may deteriorate into an utter mess of chaotic chest-thumping, the likes of which has never been seen…not even in the comments section of Statter911.com (in which case I will delete everything and we will pretend that this never happened.) Maybe nobody will submit anything. We shall see…
Let the madness ensue…
Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Post Submission”.
…and Here We Go.
Well, Leather-freaks…it’s time. We currently have over 1,100 Facebook followers. Adding in Twitter followers of both ELAFF-associated accounts and direct email subscribers on the blog, we reach closer to 1,400 people…maybe 1,500. No matter the exact number, we have far more followers than I ever imagined we would and the ELAFF community is growing daily. We aren’t going to beg you for “likes” and grovel for followers anymore. That isn’t what ELAFF is about, and it was beginning to get on my own nerves.
So, let’s give some stuff away, so that we can get back to the serious content of the ELAFF movement.
We are actually going to be running two contests. You all should know about the MN8 Products giveaway, so we’ll discuss the other contest first.
The “Guess the Location of ELAFF HQ” Contest
Over the past two years, ELAFF has been distributing “sound fire service ideas with a satirical twist” to an ever-growing audience. Facebook fans range from Alaska to Alabama, along with some international fans. Through all of this, we have maintained strict secrecy over the location of ELAFF HQ and our true identities. It has worked, and the blacked-out photos are fun, but we have reached the limits of what we can accomplish “undercover”. As some formerly anonymous bloggers have said, “Anonymity is overrated.” It is time to give it up. We are going public.
Of course, we can’t simply show our faces and post our names. This is ELAFF. We are still Lt. Lemon and Capt. Chaos. We’re going to have some fun with this unveiling.
This contest will be for the followers who haven’t been clued into the whereabouts of our hide-out. We are interested to see how well we’ve hidden our identities, but this means we have to set some limitations.
If you meet any of the following criteria, you will not be eligible for this contest (don’t worry, you can still win some Foxfire gear):
- If you have met either Lt. Lemon or Capt. Chaos in person. (Our memories are photographic…we remember EVERYONE.)
- If you are our friend on either of our personal FB pages.
- If you have received a Lemon Wedge in the mail. (Sorry, you’ve seen my return address…but you have a Lemon Wedge!)
- If you are relatively familiar with anyone who meets the above criteria, or we think you had an unfair advantage.
How To Enter:
Enter your name, email address, and guess of where ELAFF HQ is. You can give a vague guess, like the West Coast or the Northeast, or you can give a more detailed guess, like a state or city.
The winners will be the entrants with the three closest, and most specific, guesses.
The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd nearest guesses will win a Limited Edition Gold, Silver, and Bronze Lemon Wedge, respectively.
Capt. Chaos and I also plan on throwing in other random goodies from ELAFF HQ. There is no telling what those will consist of, but they will be worth it.
This contest will run until 9pm PST on March 2, 2012.
**If you know who we are and you let the secret out, I’ll give you a high-five to the face.**
The MN8 Products Giveaway
The contest that you’ve all been waiting for. We will randomly give away 1 Foxfire Helmet Band, 1 Foxfire tool wrap, and 1 XL Foxfire t-shirt from MN8 Products.
The only requirement for this contest is that you must “like” the ELAFF FB page and the MN8 Products FB page. The contest entry form should allow you to do this when you enter. Everyone is eligible except for Capt. Chaos and myself.
How To Enter:
Go to the ELAFF Facebook page and click the “Big Giveaway” tab on the left sidebar…or just click here.
You may enter once per day, until the contest ends.
This contest will end at 9pm PST on March 2, 2012.
There you have it…you may begin entering now.
The Brotherhood is a Lie
That’s right. The title is referring to the Fire Service Brotherhood. Before you amass a posse and begin an assault on ELAFF HQ, I ask that you read this post to the last word. After that, please share your opinions…positive or negative.
I’ve been working on this post for a few months now. Until recently, it was merely a set of scattered ideas, floating around in my mind without a central focus to tether them all together. This week, I found my focus. A group of firefighters in Georgia uploaded a video to Youtube, showing an outrageous “rookie prank” which they carried out.
Here is the video:
My immediate thought after viewing this video was,”Wow…these guys are crazy!”
I planned on leaving it at that, with no further comment. As usual, I continued to follow the chatter on Statter911. I enjoy observing the varying opinions of Statter’s readers, and their reactions towards one another. The comments began to follow two, distinct paths.
The overwhelming majority of comments voiced disgust and disapproval. Those are the comments I agree with. The small number of opposing comments accosted the dissenters with accusations of overreaction and over-sensitivity.
I fail to see the supposed “innocence” of this “prank”. Ask any ELAFF Local and they will tell you that I am a supporter of firehouse fun and harmless tom-foolery. This prank, however, crossed the line. It may have caused mental trauma to the recipient, and even more likely, it could have resulted in serious injury or death. Don’t believe it? I’ll explain…
What if an off-duty member, carrying a legal and permitted concealed weapon, stopped by the station for a visit? How about a local law enforcement officer seeking a cup of coffee and some small talk. The city that this department protects has seen an increase in violent crime in recent years. If an armed firefighter or law officer entered the station to find his comrades being forced to the floor by a masked gunman, they would most likely react quickly. If they had entered the room as the firecrackers exploded, sounding like gunfire and adding to the realism of the mock execution, I’m sure they would have reacted aggressively. The ironic tragedy of a mock gunman being shot by an uninformed hero would have changed the tone of those supportive comments, and silenced any laughter.
Now, back to the Brotherhood and the focus of this post. There was one comment that veered to the extreme end of the supportive spectrum. It immediately struck a nerve and spurred me to tie those scattered ideas into a solid post. Here it is verbatim:
“You guys are such negative nancy’s. What happened to the brotherhood in the fire department? You are all too busy trying to throw them under the bus. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? As far as the prank being dangerous? I hate to tell you but F.D. Doesn’t mean fire department, but rather freaking dangerous.”
What happened to brotherhood? It doesn’t exist…it is a lie. At least, the “brotherhood” of which this comment speaks is a lie. It seems to be increasingly common for newer members of the fire service to EXPECT the brotherhood. They believe that as soon as they get some bunker gear, they are a solid link in the chain of fire service brethren…and that this link can never be severed. Nope. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The TRUE brotherhood between firefighters must be earned, and to keep it, you must stay true to the profession. You can get your issued t-shirt, or pager, or union decal for your truck…but that doesn’t make you a Brother. Don’t get me wrong. Senior firefighters should be there for the rookies. They should answer their questions, mentor them, even give them a little razzing when they get too cocky. Don’t shun the new guys, but make sure they know that they still have something to prove before they fully become a Brother.
Earning a place in the Brotherhood doesn’t require a working fire and an act of heroism, either. I recall a firehouse visit by a German fireman(feuerwehrmann). He spoke little English and had never stepped foot in our house before. We began to tour the station and apparatus; through broken English, hand signals, and my very basic understanding of German (thanks to my German roots) we began to communicate. His “detailed” questions about hose lays, pump rate, equipment, and tactics shone brightly through the language barrier. This was a Brother. He knew firefighting. He lived it. He didn’t leave it behind like a businessman on vacation. He didn’t ask lame questions about flashing lights and sirens. With less than 50 actual, spoken words…he EARNED my trust…and proved his status as a Brother. I assume that by gladly sharing our house and rigs, and by answering his questions with enthusiasm, pride, and knowledge…we earned HIS trust, as well.
Being a member of the Brotherhood goes beyond joining the department and wearing a t-shirt. It is more complex than simply wearing a pager and has no correlation to the amount of lights on your P.O.V. Being a member of the Brotherhood is about looking out for your Brothers. Putting them, and the civilians you protect, before yourself…and not just on the fireground. Being a Brother requires constant training. Brothers drop the remote and pick up the weights, so that they’ll be prepared for the next call. They take a break from talking about football at the kitchen table, so that they can run through a scenario or critique a previous call. Brothers take part in as much training as possible, even the courses that AREN’T required by the department. They spend spare time going over the rigs, looking for subtle changes which could make the next run flow a bit smoother. To Brothers, the fire service is more than a way to earn a paycheck, or a way to pick up chicks. It takes dedication and commitment to be a Brother. For that reason, not EVERY fire department member is a TRUE Brother Firefighter.
Too often these days, when news of a misbehaving firefighter hits the internet, some whacker-troll jumps out of the shadows screaming about the “brotherhood”. The idiots in Georgia may have been Brothers last week. Then, they pulled this “prank” and posted it on Youtube. They endangered themselves and made their department (and therefore the ENTIRE American fire service) a joke. They disgraced the Brotherhood, and thereby forfeited their privilege as a member. Yes, “privilege”. Not “right”. IF they are allowed to remain in this profession, they will have to EARN that privilege again.
To simply defend their actions because of the “brotherhood” is ridiculous. If a rogue firefighter decides to light a random house on fire for kicks, would you stand behind his actions because he’s a “brother”? What if he inadvertently killed somebody; would you support his act of arson under the veil of “brotherhood”? What if the victim was ALSO a “brother” firefighter?
I’ll stand by my Brothers through a lot, but when they start breaking laws and endangering lives, they go against the very morals that hold the Brotherhood together. I can’t consider someone like that a Brother, and I doubt they were ever one to begin with. If they had time to plan an elaborate stunt like the one above, then they also had time to train or hit the gym. They chose not to, and therefore chose to avoid the Brotherhood.
I have no problem with somebody supporting the “gunman pranksters” above. If you think it was a harmless prank, fair enough. If you think that no harm was done, fine.
Just don’t use the Brotherhood as your default defense. To some of us, it has a meaning which runs deeper than your superficial understanding.
(Credit to the following blogs for extra motivation and inspiration on this post: Jason Jefferies’ Working the Job, Chris Brennan’s Fire Service Warrior, and Taj Meyers’ QueenCityBurns. Read those posts.)
Firefighters are Dumb
That is indeed a caustic title. However, it isn’t my opinion, rather it seems to be a common sentiment throughout the fire service. Granted, the fact that you are reading this on your own volition shows that you are probably not the target of this post. When discussing an article in a trade publication or other fire service literature, how often have you heard comments like, “I’m a firefighter; I don’t read”? The idea that firefighting is simple, physical labor involving only brute strength and requiring little education is outdated. How can we continue to develop our skills if we refuse to push our limits? Most firehouses are equipped with weight rooms; which allow us to continually improve our physical fitness because we rely on strong bodies to perform our jobs. Making split-second decisions during intense situations requires an extremely sharp mind. So, why are we not equally concerned with our mental fitness? We must be willing to exercise and build our minds, just as we do our muscles.
Why do we promote our purported stupidity? I believe it’s all due to our deep-rooted history and traditions. We cling to the old school, the past. This is a wonderful ideal for building esprit de corps, but there are some traditions for which it is long time to abandon. Organized firefighting in America grew out of the poor, slum-dwelling populations in large cities like Boston and New York City. The ranks were filled with Irish and Italian immigrants who were unable to acquire more conventional employment, and they performed amazingly well considering their circumstances. Those were the days of bucket brigades and horse-drawn steam engines; when PPE consisted of wool clothing, large mustaches, and an iron constitution. Times changed, technology improved, and the fire service developed strategies and tactics beyond the half-improvised attempt to simply limit destruction to a few buildings. The science of modern chemistry grew from the archaic meddlings of metallurgy and alchemy, yet chemists have earned a distinction as reputable scientists by yielding the backroom wizardry of their past to newer, constantly advancing techniques. It is time for the American fire service, as a whole, to remove the “dumb guy” attitude from our collective mindset and allow our profession to grow.
Many would ask, “Why does it matter as long as we do the job?” We fight the beast, we slay the dragon, we save the day. Sure, but what about the other 85% of the time, when we’re watching t.v. and drinking coffee? What about when we aren’t being heroes? The perception of the public, and city officials, acts on the premise of “out of sight, out of mind”. Smothering infernos and rescuing babies gets us in the headlines, but the next day we are back to being lazy, pension-padding, tax-dollar wasting jerks. We continue to promote ourselves as blue-collar, single-skilled laborers, yet we are amazed when the city council wants to close stations and layoff firefighters. They see us as single-use tools, only needed in case of emergency; a reactive force to be called upon only after things go awry. In order to change their perception of us, we must change our perception of ourselves.
We must truly accept, encourage, and even require higher education within the ranks. The members of today’s fire service must evolve, and market ourselves as educated, intelligent, and highly skilled specialists. We must move beyond the idea of being mindless brutes who break things and spray water on fire. Yes, there is still a need for effective, aggressive firefighting and we must continue to do our job, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read a book every once and awhile. Our’s is a profession which requires brains, as well as brawn, for long-term success.
– Lt. Lemon