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Pushing the Firefighter “Reset” Button

Pushing the Firefighter Reset Button

Joseph Kitchen, Bath Twp. Fire Department (Lima, Ohio)

            Do you ever get to the point where you just feel exhausted? Your work schedule has been busier than usual; your home life is hectic. Family, friends, kids, school, coaching sports, church activities, volunteer work…it all just adds up and you feel like you are at your breaking point. If so, I believe for many of us, its normal. We live crazy lives, jam packed with more activities than there are hours in the day. We get behind on sleep, we get irritable, and often we start treating people negatively. Many times this bleeds over into our work at the fire department. We find ourselves more argumentative, confrontational, and less cooperative. Some firefighters don’t feel like drilling or training because they are burned out. If this is you, or someone you know; it’s time to hit what I call the “firefighter reset button.”

Here is a list of ten tips and suggestions on how to get back on track and hit reset.

  1. Take a vacation. Get away from the cell phones, texting, emails, fire department pager, and social media. If you can afford a trip to the beach or some exotic location, great. But, if not, use the time to visit family out of town, go camping, take a fishing trip, just get away.
  2. Ask for a shift change or station assignment change. Sometimes we get too comfortable and find ourselves in a rut. A new environment with new people may be just the spark we need to get reinvigorated.
  3. Get promoted. If you are no longer challenged in your current position, maybe it’s time to step up to the next level. Start studying for the exam. Today.
  4. Drop the second job. If you are coming to the fire station to rest up from your side job as a landscaper or a roofer, you are making a huge mistake. Focus on your career as a firefighter. You knew it was the best job on the planet, that’s why you took it!
  5. Change your attitude. Do you walk in the firehouse door at shift change with a smile on your face ready for a great day doing the work you love? If not, make the change.
  6. Take a class or finish your degree. Education is an awesome way to recharge our batteries and get excited about our future career opportunities.
  7. Be a mentor. An awesome way to get pumped up about our work is to train and educate new firefighters. They have great attitudes and tons of energy. Take them under your wing and teach them a thing or two. You will both benefit!
  8. No more drama. Vacate yourself from petty conversations and firefighters with poisonous and toxic effects on your organizations. Steer clear of these employees. You can’t hit the reset button and get motivated with these knuckleheads in your life. Walk away.
  9. Live a life of service. This job is all about service to our community. The job we are sworn to do comes first. Refocus yourself on your commitment to saving lives and protecting property. Nothing else is as important.

     10. Go to FDIC. Get around other firefighters. Talk to instructors. Read the books. Take the classes. Meet the vendors. See the equipment. Evaluate the apparatus. Remember how much you love this career. There is nothing like a week at FDIC to get you back on track. If there is a fire department in heaven, I bet it looks like FDIC!

        Make the choice to “hit reset” and get back to loving your job. We are the luckiest people on Earth, doing the best job, in the most honorable profession. If you’ve been dragging yourself out of bed in the morning and have lost your passion; hit the button. Reset your attitude and get back to work doing what you do best!

           

Joseph Kitchen, OFC, is the Chief of the Bath Twp. Fire Dept. (Lima, Ohio.) He began his career in 1990 and has served as fire chief since 2002. He holds degrees in EMS and fire science, and in 2012 was named Fire Officer of the Year by the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety. Follow Chief Kitchen on Twitter @bathtwpchief and visit his departments website at www.bathtwpfd.com

 

 

 

 

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Comment by Nathan Burtscher on May 11, 2016 at 9:15am

Chief, one of the things I struggled the most with was coming to work and hearing the negativity. At one point of my career I let the negativity get me off my game and that had a spiraling effect. I found myself being the one who had to drag myself out of bed and was often angry at work. I agree with many of your tips above, however first we must recognize the need to hit the reset button. Change has to come from within! We can all be better than we are, and sometimes that is the hard part to admit.  

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