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If We Can Find bin Laden, Then Why Can’t We…

Like most other red, white and blue-blooded Americans, I savored the news that Osama bin Laden had been found and shot dead by a U.S. SEALs Team.

Blogger Sidebar: Has anyone else noticed that the mainstream media has been spelling “Osama” with a “U” instead of an “O”? I think you know why.

I have no doubt that bin Laden is dead. I have no reason to question the validity of our President’s claim. Therefore; I need no other “verification”, but I would view the “official” photos of a dead bin Laden, if given the opportunity.

Let Cindy Sheehan and the other nut jobs perpetuate the conspiracy theories. The rest of us should briefly rejoice and then get back to keeping our guard up and supporting our government and our troops, as we continue our war on terrorism.

But, I have to wonder; if we can find bin Laden, then why can’t we find common ground at the center of a myriad of issues?

When you think of all of the information that was processed; all of the planning required and all of the practice needed to drop our men on the “head of a pin” at precisely the right moment, in order to confront and kill bin Laden, then fixing our federal government doesn’t seem like such an arduous task.

I am sure that the members of our SEALs Team came from different social, ethnic, religious or even political backgrounds, but all of that was compartmentalized, so that they could focus on the plan/the mission.

Imagine what would happen if our military-though, at the mercy of bureaucrats for funding-behaved like our federal government behaves: nothing would get done, each would be blaming the other and we would be the laughingstock to the rest of the world.

But, fear not; our nation’s fire service isn’t far behind with their inability to find common ground on important issues as well.

We can find bin Laden, but our fire service can’t find agreement on what the top issues are.

First and foremost; I believe some of the separation is due in part to the number of trade magazines, editors, writers, bloggers and the many different agendas that are being saturated by very personal opinions.

Yes; that includes me. I don’t pretend to be an Everyman. My opinions are mine and I don’t necessarily look for agreement; I look for “diversity in opinion”.

The trades and their websites all run the same top stories (competition is brutal for who gets the story up FIRST), videos and pictures, but the similarities stop there. From website layout to cash layout; they become very different, in terms of content.

I believe that the nation’s fire service organizations are driven by the opinions of the people who populate the various committees, in much the same way that Congress operates.

In other words; our special interests group (national fire service) is being influenced by special interests groups that drive us further away from common ground and a general consensus.

The priorities identified at the national level often miss the smaller targets of local fire departments. I will use residential sprinklers as an example.

I think that it’s a great idea and a worthy project to push for a nation-wide initiative, but why would a small department struggling to keep fuel in their 30 year-old fire engine that is housed in their dilapidated, mold-infested, asbestos-lined fire station even SEE sprinklers as a blip on their radar screens?

Everyone Goes Home®?

Well, some in the fire service believes that some won’t. Some believe that firefighting, by its very nature, requires us to accept that firefighters will die in the performance of the job, so the program is a lie and a failure. I don’t believe that, but unfortunately others do. They embrace the notion that there is acceptable risk and acceptable deaths, because “that is what we do”.

We can find bin Laden, but we can’t find agreement on when to do a primary search and when it is too dangerous to do so. We can’t agree on what abandoned/vacant, tenable/untenable or even what “risk a lot to save a lot; risk little to save little” means anymore. The measure of success or failure is not that someone has been seriously injured or killed, but rather, how much risk was your department willing to take; regardless of outcome? And anything less is considered an exercise in “yard breathing”. The problem as I see it is that many of us who have worked some tough scenes won’t accept or understand someone else reacting differently to a similar set of circumstances. We are expecting the new breed to be JUST LIKE US and we are disappointed when they aren’t. They don’t have the heart or at least the same heart as we do. We want THEM to look in the mirror and see US.

We can find bin Laden, but some firefighters can’t find enough common sense to drive to an incident scene in a careful, safe manner. Whether it’s in a personal vehicle (POV) or apparatus, we still have some who believe that getting there as fast as they can without due regard is acceptable. And we can’t agree on the “honors” paid to that firefighter, who dies while recklessly putting the public at risk, because there is this twisted notion that the driving public should ALWAYS yield to the big, red fire truck! Remember that last year, a firefighter returning from a fire school was drag racing with another car and caused a wreck in which an innocent motorist and the driver that was drag racing were killed. The firefighter was given LODD status. Shameful. Yeah; some of us don’t agree on that either.

We can find bin Laden, but we can’t find agreement on reducing LODDs and especially deaths from heart attacks. We want to believe that they are caused from the thermal pounding that we take at a fire.

Yes; that would account for maybe 2% of the LODD heart attacks, but that doesn’t explain the other 98% that have an undetected, congenital heart problem, because we can’t agree that pre-employment or yearly physicals thereafter should be required (again; see “fueling 30 year-old fire engine); or high blood pressure that goes untreated; or obesity to borderline morbid to morbid obesity, because of poor diet choices and eating habits, coupled with a sedentary life-style. We can’t agree on healthy diets, because of the many different diet plans that are pushed by big, corporate money.

We can find bin Laden, but we can’t find unity of career and volunteer.

That leads to disagreements on what constitutes professionalism and builds, then nurtures, mutual respect. We argue about “purity of heart” and other “why we do what we do” issues. We can’t even find common ground on common issues, such as 360 size up or ventilation or nozzle types.

We can find bin Laden, but we can’t find objective and open-minded thought on the state of our local economies and our pension systems. In the minds of the public sector employees, their wage and benefits package has been a matter of public record, but in the minds of their taxpayers, the details have been buried in the language of their union contract and out of the public eye.

It’s one thing to read that a city employee will make a salary of X and the rest of the employee benefits package, including pension, is described in ambiguous terms. Employee will receive medical, dental and vision coverage and city will contribute to employee pension does not tell you what that costs.

So; we can find bin Laden, but we can’t find two people who agree on what is fair for public employees during an economic downturn or local fiscal crisis. The divide between career and volunteer firefighters gets wider, because cities start talking about replacing career with volunteer or paid on call personnel. In cities with career departments, the unions representing the career firefighters will unleash a torrent of public relations tools to bolster the needs for a career department.

Ironically, there is no talk of replacing street and sanitation workers or police with volunteers; only the fire department. Appeals from the career guys will go out to their volunteer “brothers”, who were, moments earlier, “scabs” to resist being used in this manner-a scare tactic pitting “brother against brother”.

Yep; we can find bin Laden, but finding unity among the factions in our fire service will remain elusive for now.

But, if we want to continue to draw comparisons between the military and the fire service, then we need to adopt philosophy, in addition to the strengthening programs.

That way; firefighters with very diverse backgrounds will come together and work with the same plans to accomplish each mission.

That’s how I see it, anyway.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or my dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

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