Hating up Close
By Frank Ricci
It has been said that it is hard to hate up close. Many times we often avoid situations that make us feel uncomfortable to our own detriment. I learned this lesson the hard way once I got promoted. One night I was detailed to another fire station. Not being familiar with the crew, especially the driver made me feel uneasy. This shift was not eating dinner together so I checked out my equipment and went into my office. On our first alarm the driver was no help! I had an alone feeling as I was fumbling through the map book like a fool to get the address and locate the nearest hydrant. Back at the station I Looked at the clock with dread. That night could not end soon enough for me my shift was a well oiled machine and I could not wait to get back.
When your the officer officer communication is essential to the outcome of the operation. While it is the drivers primary responsibility to get the crew to the alarm safely and the officers primary responsibility to get them back alive and uninjured. The initial communication is critical to both ends. Not talking to each other It is like trying to set a table after dinner is served.
Without knowing it at the time I made the mistake of not reaching out to the shift. Familiarity breaks down barriers and makes the team stronger. I am a firm believer that eating together is key to our success as a unit. If the shift is not eating take a few moments to talk to each person on the shift. Chances are that if you have a little apprehension, the shift is probably experiencing the same thing. After all this is the fire service we all have much more in common than we would like to think. We are a team and we should act like it.
Two weeks later I was running for office and visited with each shift in the city. It was time to enter that same house and shift. The exchange went great. Just by sitting down and talking I realized that my apprehension was misplaced.
The next month I got the call to fill in at the same station. I was welcome with open arms. When the first alarm struck I pulled my self up and as I started for the map book I heard a phrase I am used to "Lou, I am all set the hydrant is at the corner just past the building if you want to reverse?" I smiled, verified the address in the book and we went to work. This was the same driver that I had before with a different attitude. The lesson is clear as a leader it is your job to set the example and reach out. Yes that fire house and the one I was assigned to could not be more different. You must realize as a covering officer when dealing with different internal cultures your not going to change the culture overnight. However your attitude will effect the operations of the entire crew and you must take the time to get to know your crew even if it is for one night. It is important lesson here is we all have value and we can and should learn from each other.