Can You Hear Me Now?

* Image from UrgentComm.com

Hey all. This post was actually inspired by one that my buddy Jason Jefferies wrote for Fire Service Warrior he titled, The Most Important 6 Inches. And like Jason, I’ll just say get your minds out of the gutter. If you haven’t read his article shoot on over to FSW and give it a read, it’s well worth it and I’ll still be here when you get back. So, this post is going to focus on arguably our second-most important tool on the emergency scene; the portable radio. Some of you just yawned and got ready to find another page to go to but hang in there, I’m not going to be talking narrow banding or the pros and cons of trunking systems or anything like that. Hopefully you might pick something up from this article.

I’m a stickler about my portable. I’m very fortunate in that my department actually issues each member their own. So every day I know what condition it is in, when the battery was changed last, any particular issues the radio may have and an overall “feel” for the tool. I realize I’m fortunate. I know there are departments out there that cannot afford this luxury and may not even be able to provide enough portables per riding position on the rigs. I think that is truly unfortunate and dangerous but it is a topic for another post.

At the beginning of my shift my radio is one of the first things I check. I carry mine in a radio strap so I start there. I make sure that the strap is in decent condition, that nothing looks like it is going to fail or is worn too badly. If it needs a bit of cleaning I’ll clean it up real quick-like. Then I check the outside of the radio for obvious damage. Hopefully I would have known about this during the last shift had something happened severe enough to actually crack the case or something, but you never know. I pay special attention to the cord connecting the radio body to the remote microphone, this is especially susceptible to damage in our line of work. Finally I check the remote mic. Again, if a little cleaning up is needed I do it real quick. Then I actually turn the radio on to check the battery status and to see what channel it is set to. My department does not have a set standard for when to replace the battery, it’s left up to each individual to use their brains. Our battery life indicators have 4 bars on them, I personally will start a shift with 3 bars showing. If it goes to 2 during the shift I will switch the battery out. Obviously, anything less than the 3 bars showing initially gets switched out immediately. I always double-check to make sure the radio is set to our main dispatch frequency also. Being detailed out to other stations is quite common and you never know who (or you) might have forgotten a radio and borrowed yours and left it on a fireground or training frequency the shift before. It’s just a good idea to check.

Ok, so that was pretty basic, I know. For those of you that are still reading, thank you for hanging in there. The next thing I’d like to discuss is how the radio is carried. Honestly, I don’t really care. It’s up to you. It’s however you’re comfortable and can operate the tool but here are three parameters that, in my opinion MUST be met in whatever method you choose to carry your radio. 1) Radio traffic must be able to be heard. 2) The radio switches and buttons must be able to be operated. And 3) The radio must actually be on.

The first point doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with volume, although I’m sure we all know co-workers who think that it does. What I mean by carrying the radio in a fashion that radio traffic can be heard is carrying it in a way that the speaker is somewhere near your ears. Not clipped to your belt. Not stuffed in your back pocket facing backwards. Not stuffed in your front pocket. Actually somewhere near your ear-holes so that the information being broadcast over the speaker actually has half a chance at making it into the computer in your skull and being decoded into useful data. If you do that you might find you don’t need the volume cranked to 11 just to be able to hear. This is why I personally like the radio strap. Throw it on and the mic is at my left shoulder every time, close to my ear.

Second point, being able to operate the tool. I’ve seen some interesting methods of carrying radios over the years, mostly related to our bunker gear. Obviously the radio pocket is probably the most popular method, and that’s fine, as long as you can get the radio out to change channels or the volume or activate your emergency button. The thing I dislike about the radio pocket is that it a almost necessitates the use of two hands to operate the radio. You can pull the flap open with one hand just fine, but with structural firefighting gloves on you aren’t going to get two fingers into the pocket to turn the knobs to change channels or the volume. Which means you have to pull the radio out of the pocket and hold it with one hand while you perform those actions with the other. It just seems cumbersome to me and slows things down. I’ve seen guys use the belt-clip to clip the radio to either the belt strap or the chest strap on the SCBA. I’ve seen that go both ways. I’ve seen it work ok and I’ve seen the radios get the ever-loving snot beat out of them too being exposed like that. Plus, with both the radio pocket and the belt-clip method, the coiled remote mic wire is left exposed to become an entanglement hazard to any burned out mattress spring, drop-ceiling grid or just about anything else that is looking to reach out and get us. At least with the belt-clip method the knobs and buttons are exposed and able to be operated with one hand and by feel only, that’s on the plus side. Again, I prefer an extra long radio strap worn under my bunker coat that allows the radio to hang just under the lower edge of the coat, exposed for operation of all the controls, with the remote mic cord running up underneath the coat removing the entanglement hazard, out the top of my coat to a retractable lanyard system secured to the storm flap of my coat at my left ear. Again, I’m just giving you my thought process on why I came to this system as the best solution for me personally. I’m not trying (too much) to sell you on it. But I do want you to give some serious thought to how you have your rig set up at work and maybe make some changes if need be.

Ok, third point. The thing actually has to be on. I can’t tell you how often this doesn’t happen. Whether it be intentional or unintentional numerous radios are left off during both training and actual incidents constantly. NIOSH reports are filled with incidents of firefighters being injured and killed with their radios being off. Near-miss reports are filled with the same. Yet I constantly hear, “There’s a radio every 5 feet, I don’t need mine on.”, or “I hate carrying that @$#& thing.” If you don’t turn it on, or worse yet, if you don’t have it, the tool can not help you. I would hate to think that a firefighter found themselves in trouble, had just that little bit of panic set in, and were talking into a microphone that was off the entire time they were trying to call a mayday because they forgot to turn the radio on in the heat of the moment, pun intended. It doesn’t even need to be a structure fire where it can help you out. What about EMS runs? Ever had your partner go back to the rig for something and you suddenly remember you need something else? Or the situation changes and you need another piece of equipment? I guarantee he or shed is not going to be happy if they get all the way back up to the fourth floor just to find out they have to turn around and go back down again. How about a personal safety stand-point? Same scenario. You’re on an EMS run and something bad happens and you don’t have a radio. God forbid but something has happened to the rest of your crew and you don’t have a way to communicate. Or it’s just you and your partner and he or she went to the rig to get the aforementioned piece of equipment and suddenly the calm and agreeable psych patient turns on you and you’re fighting by yourself with no means to call for help? Ego and machismo aside, wouldn’t it be better to be able to key the mic and at least be able to alert someone that something was wrong? Carry the thing, turn it on, turn it down.

The last thing I’ll say about our portables is; LISTEN TO THEM! Just because the traffic isn’t directly to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to do with you. Make sense? Example; You are Truck 1 assigned to throw ground ladders to the C-side of the building on a 2-story residential fire. As you are completing this task Engine 2, who is making the attack on the bedroom fire on the second floor, requests ventilation on the B-side near the B-C corner. You hear this, radio command you are in a position to roll a ladder and complete this task, badda-boom badda-bing Engine makes the room, fire out, everyone’s happy. Same scenario but because you are not listening to the radio traffic and because the message does not begin with “Truck 1” you don’t pay attention to whoever is yapping on the radio. Command has to wait for another Truck to come up from staging, make it to the B-C corner, vent the window between dirty looks at your guys, who are all now standing around doing nothing because your assignment of laddering the C-side is complete, the fire has moved into the adjoining bedroom because of the delay and is moving into the attic. Nice job ace. Missed radio traffic is a huge pet peeve of mine. And I’m not talking about missed radio traffic that is directly to a unit, I’m talking about general emergency scene traffic that contains information that provides clues or basis for judgement to everyone operating that people routinely miss because they are focused on what is going on two inches in front of them or because they only pay attention to the radio transmissions that begin with their unit numbers. Drives me nuts.

Your radio is as much a tool as an ax, Halligan or your SCBA. You need to be familiar with its operation and “feel”. The only way you will get that is by using it and practicing with it. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Something as simple as closing your eyes and counting channels as you turn the knob is  a quick drill you can do yourself without anyone else even knowing you’re doing it. Go out and try different methods of wearing your radio with both your station uniform and your bunker gear. Find out what is going to work best for you. Don’t just assume that since there is a “radio” pocket and a tab sewn on your coat that it’s the best place for you to carry the radio. After all, you know what happens when you assume, right?

Until next time,

Be safe!

Chris

‘Dis One’s Gonna Be Quick

Things I’ve learned so far at firefighter camp;

1)  I really have no business writing a blog because I’m dumb.

2)  I have so much more to learn.

3)  Some of the people who would have every right in the world to be arrogant, pretentious jerks aren’t because they’re firefighters who love the job and love passing on their knowledge just like you and me.

4)  Whudder means water when spoken by someone from Philly, or Camden.

5)  With newer, more energy efficient construction a first-arriving company can pull up on a fire that is either heavily involved or has darkened down on the inside and left very little signs of active fire on the outside (which leads to a “light smoke” or “nothing showing” radio report) and as soon as you force the front door or a window fails that space will reach flashover in 60 – 90 seconds. Go to Underwriter’s Laboratories and check out the research for yourself if you don’t believe me.

6)  Our tactics have to change folks. They have to. And in order for our tactics to change our thinking has to change. That’s where the hard part is. 100 years of tradition…

7)  Aggressive tactics can also be safe tactics. But in order for them to be so you need to be trained and educated.

8)  Operating safely on the fire or emergency scene is NOT synonymous with doing nothing, going defensive or being unaggressive. It simply means you are taking every precaution humanly possibly to minimize the risk to yourself and your crew while carrying out the tasks that need to be completed for the job you are working on. Sometimes that means saying the job simply can’t be completed.

9)  Walking back and forth from the hotel to the convention center with all my gear 6 times sucks. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world for the experiences of the HOT classes.

10) Being in the room to hear Bobby Halton’s opening remarks, seeing Firefighter Larry McCormack from Chicago’s Squad 5 receive the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award and hearing Chief Steve Kraft’s keynote address was a moving experience. I encourage every firefighter who cares about this job to do it at least once in person.

People I’ve met while at firefighter camp (and some of whom have known me too!);

1)  Jason Jefferies ( Working the Job )and I finally got to meet in person. It was touching and kinda uncomfortable all at the same time.

2)  Jonah Smith ( The Hose Jockey )

3)  John Mitchell ( Fire Daily ) Ok, truth be told, John doesn’t really count. We used to work together but he’s way more famous-er than me.

4)  Gabriel Angemi ( CMD FD )

5)  Ray McCormack  ( Urban Firefighter Magazine )

6)  Pete Van Dorpe, Chief of Training, Chicago Fire Department

7)  Robert Hoff, Commissioner (Ret.), Chicago Fire Department, Deputy Chief, Carol Stream Fire Department

8)  Rhett Fleitz ( Fire Critic )

9)  Willie Wines, Jr. ( Iron Firemen )

10) Paul Hasenmeier ( Paul Hasenmeier )

11) Christopher Naum ( Buildings on Fire )

These are guys that I think are some of the brightest and most talented firefighters, officers and writers of our time. And to actually get to meet them and have conversations with them, and on top of that to actually have a couple of them know who I am, was surreal and an honor. I’m really looking forward to meeting some more tomorrow and to be in some classes and learn more to lessen my dumbness, but for now I’m going to take some Prilosec to calm down the bar-b-que I had for dinner and get some rest.

Be safe!

Chris

Making the Pilgrimage

Tomorrow evening I’ll be making my semi-regular trip to Indianapolis for our profession’s greatest educational gathering. It used to be an annual thing but, since becoming a husband and father, well, you know, sometimes things come up. But this year I’m there and I’m excited. Hopefully many of you who read this rag are going to be attending as well. If you are, and you happen to recognize me, please feel free to come up and say hi, shoot the bull and exchange info. You’ll have to rely on that great pick to the right though, I won’t be wearing any fancy BAS gear or anything as a walking billboard. A) Because such gear doesn’t exist, and B) I don’t roll that way anyway. But if you do happen to recognize me somehow or other please feel free to come up and say hey. To that end here are the classes I’m planning on attending while in Indy. These are just some of the awesome opportunities to further your job knowledge this coming week. And believe me, it was hard to select these because there are so many others I would love to take if I could clone myself (my Chief just had a stroke) and be in more than one place at the same time. Hope to meet some of you there!

Monday, April 16th

H.O.T. Class- Urban Essentials

Tuesday, April 17th

H.O.T. Class- Aerial and Tower Operations

Wednesday, April 18th

10:30 – 12:15  Tactical Safety

1:30 – 3:15      Commissioner’s Roundtable

3:30 – 5:15     The Art of Reading Smoke

Thursday, April 19th

10:30 – 12:15  Through the Windshield: Through the Truck Officer’s Eyes

1:30 – 3:15      10 Reasons Engine Companies Fail

3:30 – 5:15      Tactics Using Quint Apparatus

5:30 – 7:30     Fire EMS Blogs.com Blogger Meet-up, Rock Bottom Brewery

Friday, April 20th

8:30 – 10:15   Rapid Intervention Basics

10;30 – 12:15  Drills You Will Not Find in the Books

This week is also going to offer me the chance to meet two people I’ve gotten to know over the ‘net and the phone over the last couple years. Captain Jeff Schwering from Saint Louis County, Missouri is presenting the Rapid Intervention Basics class on Friday morning. Jeff also writes for Firefighter Basics.com and has worked really hard on putting this class together. He will not disappoint in its presentation.

Another guy I’ve gotten to know, Jason Jefferies, from Working the Job.com fame and I will be in the Urban Essentials class together on Monday. We’re both really looking forward to the class but we’re both really looking forward to getting together and chewing the fat over things too. It should prove to be quite entertaining.

Everyone that is going I pray for safe travels to and from for you and all your members. For those that are not going, try and get there next year and when this year’s conference is over hit up anyone you know that did go for their knowledge and experiences they gained. It’s well worth it.

Be safe!

Chris

Disillusionment or Looking Behind the Scenes at the Fire Department of Oz

I realize that the last post may have come off a little, shall we say, venomous? I still stand by it. I still think that there are a large percentage of Chief officers out there not running their departments in the right way for the right reasons. But I feel obligated, after a day or so of reflection, to explain a little bit of where that venom comes from.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am not Dave Statter or Jason Jefferies. I am not Bill Carey or Bill Schumm. I am not Willie Wines or Rhett Fleitz. I am not a news reporter or journalistic-type who presents a very informative reporting site. I am a blue-shirt firefighter who is opinionated about what the fire service should be, needs to be and deserves to be. What you read here is in large part my opinion, which we all know are like anal sphincters. Everyone has one. Doesn’t mean mine is correct, and I acknowledge that and respect others opinions, for the most-part. Sometimes people are just dead wrong. So that’s where the blog itself is coming from.

So where am I coming from in what I choose to write? Well, most of the time it comes from emotion, if you can’t tell. It’s gotten me in trouble more than once if you can believe that (try to hold back your scoffs). Most the time when I sit down to write something has recently gotten my Irish-German mixed heritage up and it’s better than drinking and going out and beating someone up. I don’t sit down and write rough drafts, move things around, change things etc. etc. With the exception of one or maybe two proof-reads what you see is what you get. So that’s where I am coming from with what I write. So now you know what the blog is about, where what I write about comes from so what’s the history behind me and what led to this blog? I guess that’s the big question and what played into a lot of the emotions that led to the last post.

From the time I decided I wanted to become a firefighter as a junior-higher I had a picture of firefighters and of the fire department as a whole that was pretty glorified. Unrealistic, even. I pictured firefighters as a group of honorable men who were out to serve others above themselves. Who were self-motivated to become the best they could possibly be. Who relished training and job-knowledge and constantly looked to improve themselves. I looked at firefighters as masters of every aspect of their jobs and as it being completely unacceptable to be less than so. I looked at firefighters as men who were bursting with pride at the calling they fulfilled and who would never dishonor their departments or profession. I looked at the fire department as a whole, and I guess by default the leadership, as an organization who’s purpose was too important to be influenced by politics or personal agendas. Everyone involved in the organization realized that and was able to put those things aside to serve the greater good and protect his neighbor. The fire department had no room for error or to be unprepared so equipment was maintained to the highest standards. Even the smallest deficiencies were corrected immediately so as not to affect performance readiness. The organization, and again by default the leadership, sought out and promoted the best qualified and most knowledgable applicants regardless of political favoritism or other influences, because that’s how important good leadership is. Over the last 18 years I have watched that entire picture be destroyed. It really is like when Dorothy looked behind the Wizard’s throne and saw the wee  little man and all the apparatus that made the image that he wanted everyone to see.

Over the last almost two-decades I’ve learned what firefighters and the fire department is really all about. Here is a list of just some of them.

  • I’ve learned that people become firefighters because of the schedule, pay and benefits.
  • I’ve learned that they put more emphasis on their part-time jobs than their primary job.
  • I’ve learned that they put little emphasis at all on learning their job because we just don’t do it that often and it’s easy to hide.
  • I’ve learned that he who finds just the right niche, or does just the right extra job, or says just the right things or fits just the right mold are the ones who get promoted regardless of whether or not they will make good tactical decisions where they count.
  • I’ve learned that there is very little team or Brotherhood and it is more about “me” and what I’m going to get, how I’m going to get promoted or what I can get out of the job.
  • I’ve learned that decisions are not made on what is best for the citizens, the members or even what makes sense but more-so for financial reasons or simply because “I say so.”
  • I’ve learned that switching into rigs three or four times in a single shift, into whatever is least broken, is somehow acceptable.
  • I’ve learned that nothing is important until someone gets hurt or something else bad happens and then it will somehow probably wind up coming back on the people who least deserve it.
  • I’ve learned that very little thought needs to go into the actual mission of the fire department (and EMS delivery), we don’t need to re-evaluate things on an on-going basis because everything is fine.
  • I’ve learned that we don’t need to clean our tools because it doesn’t matter, an ax will still cut with rust on it.
  • I’ve learned that pride in our job and training is for “fisties” or for those that care too much.
  • I’ve learned that there is almost no leadership left in the fire service, there are only managers and administrators.
  • I’ve learned that no one in any position of authority cares about the level of readiness, level of training or effectiveness of their charges.
  • I’ve learned that higher-ups have everything better to do than run their shifts or departments.
  • I’ve learned that it’s more about the appearance of a fire department than the function of a fire department.
  • I’ve learned that there are those who do despicable things as management techniques i.e. dangling carrots, making promises, manipulating lists, releasing new rules and regs at key times to stir things up etc.
  • I’ve learned that, as much as I absolutely do not understand it, there are those that thrive on power, or the perception of it.
  • I’ve also learned that those that speak out get punished.

I haven’t learned these lessons in a theoretical way in which you might learn a lesson about trigonometry. I’ve learned them by seeing them, hearing them, experiencing them and living them. Those lessons I’ve learned over the last 18 years is my fire service experience. Those lessons are made up of the firefighters I’ve served with and the company and chief officers I’ve served under. Obviously not all of them were horrible. But if I’m summarizing my career in this way which way do you think the scales are leaning? The sad part is that to a certain extent, I still believe in Oz. Despite having seen the wee little man and all his gadgets and gizmos and the front he’s put up to make it appear as something it is not I still want to believe. Maybe that’s why I write. Maybe I hope I’ll affect something or someone somewhere.

Many of you out there can pick out one or more people in your careers who you view as a mentor. A roll-model that you would like to end-up like someday. Some firefighter or officer who is a wealth of knowledge and experience, a great teacher and all those other things I used to think made up a great fire service employee. I can’t. Not a single one. Every time in my career I’ve thought I’ve had one they’ve sold-out to something or other. Or they’ve betrayed the fire service, the department or  worst of all, themselves. Sure I’ve got guys that I still want to take bits and pieces of, but I have no one singular person who I can hold up and say, “I want to be like this guy.” Terry Hatton. Paddy Brown. Bob Hoff. Ed Enright. Ray Hoff. Andy Fredericks. Benny Crane. No one like that. But I have a wonderful list of examples of whom I do not want to be like. Maybe that’s just as good. I dunno.

So ‘dats it. When my venom comes spewing forth they got the best of me. If you don’t like it, sorry. Leave me a nasty comment. I probably won’t hold it against you. I hope maybe this explains a little bit of where I come from with this blog and in particular where the Calendar post came from. I don’t hate all Chiefs, if that’s what you think. I don’t hate all officers. I’m an equal opportunity hater no matter what color shirt you wear and it pretty much comes down to this; If you’re in this job for the wrong reasons, if you’re taking more from this job than you’re giving, if you don’t know or are not proficient at your job, then you suck. Get out.

Until next time,

Stay safe!

Chris

Protect This House!

* Image and terminology are registered trademarks of the Under Armor Corporation. But you already knew that, didn’t you.

This post is going to be breaking new ground for BAS. I’ve asked another thick-headed, knuckle dragging firefighter who is still clinging to the old ways of doing things (like me) to write a guest post. I kinda imagined those of you who read this probably got bored of listening to me ramble all the time so I thought maybe a slightly different message from another jake from another part of the country might make things interesting. Besides, it will give some exposure to the author’s blog for people who may not have run across it yet. So without further ado…

Jason Jefferies is a firefighter from NC who is the primary contributor for his site www.workingthejob.com. He’s been a firefighter since 1996 and for the last 6 years he’s been employed by the Charlotte Fire Department where he is currently assigned as a Firefighter II to Ladder 13/C and HazMat 2/C. He is also a volunteer with the Belmont Fire Department in his hometown.
Along with numerous professional certifications Jason is also an IFSAC Live Burn and Rapid Intervention Team Instructor.  Jason and I have gotten to know each other over the last year or so and are currently suffering through a long-distance bro-mance. Stay strong brother. Someday we’ll meet up and have a beer or 6 (did that just get weird?). Here is Jason Jefferies’ post on respecting your heritage and your career.

Protecting Ourselves

Before we begin, I’d like to thank Ol’ Hallway Sledge for asking me to write a guest spot here on Backwards and Stupid.  I’ve read everything he’s written and I can surely say that I feel like he and I are cut from the same cloth.  When he asked me if I would write something, he also gave me Carte Blanche (yeah, I’m a smart Southerner, get up on that!) and basically said I could write whatever without editorial influence in any way.  I’ll just say this and then we’ll get started:  The following words could have just as easily been written by anyone that gives a damn about the fire service.

Anything worth having in this world is worth fighting for and anyone that will argue against that doesn’t have their head on right.  This profession that we proudly call ours is one of those things.  That’s what makes the fire service so great.  Look at the fierce allegiance that is present in many firehouses, it’s evident on our patches and in our slogans.  You’ll see phrases like “Pride of the Westside” and “We finish what others can’t”.  Honestly, we are all like a bunch of street gangs.  We all have our own turf (our still alarm area), we all have our own colors (company t-shirts and patches), we all have our own gang members (firemen) and we fight tooth and nail to maintain our identities and existence.  If you love your house, you’ll protect it, even if that means getting nasty at times.

I’m fortunate.  I’m assigned to one of the most sought after companies in my city, and believe me there are some great stations out there, mine is just the best (ya see how it starts?)  Long before I even entertained the idea of being a fireman, the men at my firehouse were forging a tradition that has stood the test of time.  A firehouse cannot build a reputation overnight, a good reputation that is. It takes years of sweat and toil, years of successful rescues and top notch work, years of always being the go to guys.  Where does that leave us assigned there today?

It’s our duty to perpetuate that reputation and sometimes it’s not easy.  When transfer time rolls around, we don’t lose guys.  We lose guys due to promotions almost all of the time, but every once in a while someone that does not fit makes it into the ranks.  It does not take long before the shift basically lets the round peg know that he does not fit into the square hole and should leave.  If an undesirable fireman puts in a transfer to come there, he’s told don’t bother.  Is that the right way to do business?  Yes.  You see, we may be relatively new to the American fire service when compared to 400 years of history, but we are an old school house, and we’ll be damned if we are going to tarnish the reputation that was set for us.  What’s my point of all of this?  Stick with me just a little longer.

Society today tells us that we should be all-inclusive. Ideas that say, “everyone gets a fair shake, everyone gets fair treatment, and no one is excluded”, are crammed down our throats from the day we start school.  Sure, it works for most places, but never in the fire service.  Let’s be honest, not everyone is cut out for this job but we are constantly running into people out of place in our firehouses.  Some are out of their element, some are simply lazy, and others are just plain old stupid.  Don’t think so?  How many guys on your fire department have said things like, “I’m only here for the benefits.”?  How many guys would rather spend ALL day lining up lawns to mow for their sideline job but ask them for 1 hour of company training and they pitch a tantrum like a 4 year old?  How do they relieve you, 1 minute until the bell rings I’ll bet.  How many Mouches do you have?  Don’t know what a Mouch is…they are half man and half couch, only getting up to eat, sleep, or hit the john.  Don’t even get me started on their inability to function as a team member on menial tasks, not to mention acting as a part of the CREW on a fire.  This is where the all inclusive, everyone deserves a chance, anyone can do this job mentality has gotten us.  You see, I don’t know your story, but I know your fire department.  I know it because they are all the same just change the names and faces and we are all the same.

This is not a gripe.  I have a solution:  Here’s how we at my firehouse handle it.

We have, as my Dad used to say, an old fashioned “You Suck” meeting.  Basically the firemen and engineers get together and let the guy know that he isn’t cutting the mustard.  Straighten up, fly right, and get your crap together.  If you can’t, get your crap and find a new company.  Will that ruffle feathers?  Yes.  Is it tactful?  Nope and it shouldn’t be.  We are not baking cakes here, our job is deadly and someone that will shirk a small task like cleaning the head will also shirk and important one like chasing kinks in the attack line.  Why are we abrasive, big, mean, poopy heads?  Because we love our firehouse, and we’ll be damned if anyone will tarnish it.

That’s the mentality it takes to protect a firehouse, but doesn’t the message transcend far past my little old corner of the fire service?  You bet it does.  If everywhere, everyone who gave a damn about this line of work would take a mentality such as this, perhaps we could separate the wheat from the chaff in this profession, making us all better in the long run.  I’m an idealist I know, but I love this job and will do what it takes to protect it, even if that means saying, “You suck.”

Jason Jefferies

I couldn’t agree more Jason. Folks, I think I’ve said it in another post but I’m going to say it again. I may want to be a brain surgeon with every fiber of my being but God just didn’t have that plan for me. So just because I really, really, really want to does that mean I should be handed a scalpel and drill and be sent into an OR? Heck, no! And I wouldn’t want anyone who was anything less than at the top of their game poking around in my brain either! People fail. People try really, really hard and fail. I’ve done it hundreds of times as I’m sure you have too. We don’t have to let every probie that comes along into the fraternity. Some just suck. Period.

I’m not a heartless person, most of the time. I know that anyone that might be denied their dream or lose their job will probably have a strong emotional reaction and maybe even some tough financial or relational times as well. And I truly would feel bad for that person and his/her close friends and relatives. But that is not enough reason to risk my life and safety, my fellow brothers and sisters lives and safety and especially those who’s lives and property we’ve sworn to protect on someone who doesn’t belong.

If you haven’t been to Jason’s blog before please either click the link in the post or on the right in the blogroll and check him out. Add him to your favorites and keep checking up for new stuff. And if you beat me to Charlotte, look him up and buy him a beer.

Stay safe,

Chris