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The Ties That Bind! My next attempt guys have at it.


In the Fire service of today, we are faced with, ties that hold us and keep us, as a whole profession, from moving forward. While some of these ties can be broken, with a little effort, some can and have proven themselves difficult or even completely unbreakable. Many of us in the Fire Service are doing the best we can to move ahead, Cultural Changes in many specific areas of the Fire Service are in the process of taking place or are they.

In the years, I have been on the job several of these “ties” stand out, as immovable objects in our way. For instance, complacency, standing as a whole, instead of individual departments or states etc, Respect for our Brothers and Sisters, rather than “lip service” just to name a few. I would like to look at these ”ties” that cause the biggest issues, in my opinion, and while I very well could upset some members of our service, maybe just maybe, I can get these same members to take a closer look at themselves.

First of all, Complacency, we as the Fire Service, are attempting to reduce our LODD’S, yet, when we take a hard look the reason for these fatalities, the bottom line is complacency. Whether we refuse to pay attention to our health, drive in a manner that would tax a NASCAR driver’s abilities, or fail to understand the basics of building construction and fire behavior, for buildings of yesterday and today. We all say we are working on the cultural changes, but how hard are we working? Is for today, while we are training, a week, until, “all this silly new stuff, dies down,” are we really seeing and understanding what complacency does and that given time, complacency’s cousin Murphy, will come and pay us a visit. Complacency takes many forms within today’s Fire Service; I hope one paragraph will make people think.

Secondly, let us talk about the Fire Service standing as a whole. While many of us on the job, understand that sentence, many, if not the majority does not. Make no mistake; the Fire Service is under attack! Budgets, politicians looking to make a name for themselves, citizens that love us one minute, but want to cut us the next, feel free to add to the list. The biggest threat to the Fire Service is from within. This problem is not isolated to a specific part of the country, or Fire Service, it is a nationwide epidemic. When we are critical of firefighters, instead of offering constructive critiques and using the events to learn, train and teach others, we fail in our mission. It is easy to be anonymous. It is easy to point fingers at others, when possibly truth be known, we were at fault or have done something similar to what we are condemning. As firefighters, we live in glass houses and we all know Firemen like to break glass. Try lifting the glass, before you break it see what happens. We must stop acting as individual firefighters, departments, cities, states and towns and act as a whole. By doing this, we may continue to do the job we love. Failure is writing off our chosen profession. As one profession, we are much stronger than individual units are.

Lastly, Brothers and Sisters let us examine RESPECT. When we call each other brother or sister, do we mean it, or for that matter, even know what that stands for? For many of us, yes, we do know, however, the majority is paying lip service to each other and truly, by no fault of their own has not been taught to understand the true meaning. Respect was taught to us as children, so why have we abandoned our childhood beliefs? I will let my Brothers and Sisters draw their own conclusions, on this topic. We must respect each other, like that person or not. Treat each other the way you wish others to treat you.

I hope that by reading this, you can see that all of these topics “tie” together. This in my humble opinion are tops at the list of issues that effect us all today. Understand Brothers and Sisters, that we all have pasts that we may not be proud of, if we have been on the job for awhile, but we must live for our future as a profession. Let us all work to break the “ties that bind,” so we may continue to pass on to those who will take our place, a profession that continues to have children, look at us and tell their parents, “Mommy, I want to be a Firefighter!”

I love my, God, my Family, my Country, and above all my Fire Service, that has made me the individual and the Company Officer, that I am today. The line is forming for the Fire Service to be a whole; my sincere hope is we all join.

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Comment by Jeff Schwering on May 12, 2010 at 11:41am
Non of us are done yet Ben! We have alot of work yet to do! Chris feel free to pass this along to the guys at your house let them see as well!
Comment by Ben Fleagle on May 11, 2010 at 3:38pm
By the way, my favorite saying from my Marine Corps days was, "Enemy behind, enemy on both sides,..they won't get away this time!" Attributed to Chesty Puller, the Marine general who had fought in wars from 1930 to 1953. I wasn't taught to quit. When you're crushed in the dirt, full of holes and one or two limbs are mangled and you can't pick up your head, ...just grin. You ain't done yet. Irritates the crap out of people.
Comment by Ben Fleagle on May 11, 2010 at 3:33pm

I have a split personality. Sometimes I view the world as a half empty glass, sometimes as half full. When I am feeling like I'm spinning my wheels and there is no progress being made, I might as well give up caring about these things, it seems to that moment when I get a note from a former student or a brother I know well, or one who used to ride in my company. And in simple words of thanks, they say things that remind why we do keep struggling. Holding back the tide may seem like a hopeless endeavor. But I have learned from those that have come back and returned the favor that our efforts do pay off and for every single one of us that is contributing five or six are effected. True, those that have been in a long time rarely give our efforts a second thought, but they will not learn until someone is hurt. It is the young and impressionable that we are trying to target, and those our own age who are still waiting for someone to point out the way.
Comment by Chris Piepenburg on May 11, 2010 at 1:08pm
Jeff, great blog brother...I have been looking at the topic of complacency for some time and just need to try and put it to words!

Mike, as always you hit the nail right on the head!

Ben, I wish it was true what you said about the more people we bring the change will come. I look at some of the folks that I have worked with and for over the past 15 years and they are the same damn people as they were then. I just don't understand the mentality of we get dept sanctioned training, why should we have to go out and train on our own.
Comment by Shawn Tibbitts on May 10, 2010 at 11:05pm
I like it!!!! Everything you hit on made me think of exact instances that I have seen, or experienced. Well done keep them coming, I cant wait to read the next, you have delicately puffed the 1st ember of the inferno. The next question is, how many company's will be responding? I hope that all of us that read this become inspired to take it to our shifts kitchen table and soon this becomes a full alarm. If we keep with the philosophy One brother at a time, soon we will all be changed for the better.
Take care and stay safe
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on May 10, 2010 at 3:34pm
the 'but' should be 'by' after "right track". Sorry.
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on May 10, 2010 at 3:33pm
You hit some very good points and it all comes back to "why are we here"? You have to get in for the right reasons and we have to attract those who want to be here for the right reasons. Easier said than done, but as formal leaders and informal leaders, we must keep people on the right track but being that positive buffer, if you will, and not falling into the pitfalls you list.
If people continue to see and hear good things and the right things, hopefully, over time they catch on and follow the right path.

Keep it up and take care,
Comment by Jeff Schwering on May 10, 2010 at 11:40am
Thanks Ben! I wish I had the power to bring everone on this community into this discussion as well as the other blog I did, on " How safe are we Really? Would truely make for a great Fire Service discussion or two! Thanks for the kind worrds Brother!
Comment by Ben Fleagle on May 9, 2010 at 10:54pm
Brother Jeff,

I really like what you have here. Especially the comments it has generated. I really agree with Mike Bricault's comments here as well. The more we talk about this, the more firemen we bring along into this, the more change we will see. Jeff, you are literaly talking about changing the way society has affected the fire service. Its not the fire service culture, its society, affecting the firehouse. If society demanded a higher standard, we would be among the first to rise to it. But society doesn't demand that, in fact it drags our members down daily. Throw the TV out of the day room, its not helping us at all. If anything, people like you, Jeff and Mike and the others are leading the way in each of our departments, trying to show the brothers where we need to go. Keep it up, Jeff, you're doing fine.
Comment by Jeff Schwering on May 9, 2010 at 2:40pm
Amen Brick, Common courtesy would have maybe worked better than respect, we've had that conversation before. Your point of training the probie instead of hazing him is well stated. If we put as much time into this Profession as our side jobs, etc, the Fire Service would be much better.

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