Funeral for a friend and questions for you:
Six to eight firefighters will be chosen to carry the casket of our friend. Any less we would be absurd even in ideal conditions. They will have to bear the weight of the member, endure environmental conditions and possibly negotiate stairs.
It is likely that the family will select a command officer from your department to oversee the funeral. This solemn responsibility may include choosing the pallbearers.
If told by the grieving widow that she only wanted two pallbearers the department liaison would not hesitate to explain the necessity of a full complement. They would advocate for what is in the best interest of the department and the family.
Incredibly, At this point we are all in agreement. So why would the same command officer fail the living, fail our communities and fail our families without rebuke?
If it takes a minimum of six to carry a casket in ideal conditions, how can our leaders justify a Rapid Intervention Team of two firefighters or only sending one company to the highway. How can they justify responding to a house fire with three floors with less than twenty-four firefighters or responding to a commercial fire with the same response as a house fire?
The fact is they can’t. They have succumbed to social norms placing us all at risk. They use banter at the table and complain about budget cuts, the mayor, policy, damaging equipment, city council or the size of their department. All these arguments fall short.
We all seem to be in agreement that IAFF, Metro Chiefs and the IAFC should continue their work on staffing. However at the same time we handcuff them. Our efforts on a national level will fail if we don’t demand the proper response at home.
We have determined who the enemy is. It is ourselves! We have done more with less creating a new minimum standard. I have long stated, “There is no Politian on scene that says you can’t call for the help you need to keep your firefighters safe.”
You have the power to pick up the radio and call for resources. You have the power to stand apart and become part of the solution. We all have the training, knowledge and experience to justify our actions. You have the responsibility to lead.
Are you the leader who would have two firefighters carry a coffin that requires six?
Failure to lead is easy to recognize. Take a look at the following eight questions and conduct your own self-evaluation and than try to justify your actions to a widow or the court.
1. Will you ensure your RIT is staffed with at least four and replaced them when utilized?
2. Will you strike a 2nd based off potential of a commercial structure fire?
3. Will you request an additional company to assist you in getting a 2 ½ line in place for any commercial structure regardless how light the smoke is?
4. Will you ask for another company to get your line in place if help is needed?
5. Will you call for mutual aid for a two to three story house if less than twenty-four firefighters are on the assignment?
6. Will you call for an additional piece of apparatus if traffic is moving to protect the scene on the highway?
7.Will you call for a second if all your resources are working and no reserves are on scene?
8. Would you advocate to a widow that only two or three firefighters should carry the coffin our friend?
A common leadership axiom tells us to “wear your rank” accepting responsibility for your position and your members is the first step. Most of the eight issues can be addressed by a simple request on the radio.
Everyone I know would love to come to your fire. It is who we are and what we do. Every role needs to be filled to guarantee our safety. It is easier to pick up the radio than bear the weight of a friend at a funeral.
Do not turn your back on your responsibility.
To learn more check out the last half of this months radio show