While at the "Combat Ready" Class last week many of my fellow firefighters gave me a hard time about some things while we were there, including one of the instructors. It was a great presentation that I took a lot away from including things that I can implement and live out at all of the fire departments I am associated with. Many of the guys I knew asked if I was running for political office, but I told them, "I'm just making contacts". As with any class I take, I met some great folks who I hope to stay in touch with over the years
I was fortunate enough to meet West from http://hpfirefighter.com/ and Pete from http://elaffhq.com/ and was happy to finally meet face to face since I felt like I had known them for a few years. During my career, I have worked with and met some great firefighters and leaders, however in the past 12 months I have met so many smart people and great leaders in our fire service that I can hardly wrap my head around how they call me one of their peers. I have been humbled by their words of encouragement and laughed at their joking jabs, and I still can't understand how I have been so blessed in such a short period to have met them.
I have met the authors of all but one Blog that I regularly read, I have met people whose articles I have read, and many other folks who are leaders in our profession. The ability to talk to these folks on a regular basis is something I value and am thankful for everyday. It is amazing how similar many of us are, despite our ranks, department size, or geographical location. However, I am pretty sure that most people that have met me think I am a redneck just because I talk funny and live in SC.
However, while it is a blessing to have such a great network of Bloggers, writers, leaders, and firefighters (some are all of the above), the question should be asked: so what now? So I met some great people, how do I help the fire service, especially my small piece of it by making these contacts? I think we all know how...by keeping in touch, pushing each other and motivating one another when each of us has a rough patch, or a discouraging day at work or home. Chris Huston from Engineco22 tweeted the other day, "People say there is no time, time hasn't changed priorities have". I think that is so true especially in the fire service of today. We have no time to train on hoselines because its Tuesday and that's tile day at the station etc, you know the story. With that said this post is about a network I have developed, not training, I will save that for another day.
We must make it a priority to maintain those friendships we may have made a the local fire school etc. because an isolated fire department is one doomed for disaster. Chris Brennan over at The Fire Service Warrior wrote about it here: I Have A Theory. In this article he discusses entropy, where a closed system moves from a state of order to disorder. A department whose members never go outside for any training, conferences, etc. may see themselves as the leaders in the fire service when they are truly not. The development of some friends from other departments from all over will help avoid this closed system in your fire house.
Making a connection with people is so simple these days, but being "that guy who seemed nice" at the bar in Indy, vs. "my friend I talked to yesterday" is much more of a challenge. The fire service really is a small world, whether we feel that way or not, its like the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, some how within 6 people we are all acquainted with one another.
Working the Job posted about it Here : The Network. Jason's post is very similar to this one in that it is amazing how many people you meet from writing a fire blog. Just as I am, he is thankful for all that the blogo-sphere has given back to him. If you don't have a network of your own, make one, in your county, state or region. Go to a weekend conference, go to a state sponsored class...oh and by the way aside from meeting people you may actually learn something too. In short, you don't have to go to FDIC or Firehouse to participate. In addition to the learning, these people are a group you can bounce ideas off of, get ideas from, and receive some career changing/saving advise at times. This group can allow you to keep a pulse on the fire service and how your little island is doing compared to everyone else. In addition,these folks you meet from all over can help keep your negativity down and help you show folks on your "Island" how good they have it (sometimes).
Most Importantly, this group to me has become a year long conference. Every week, I have exchanged some sort of text, email, or phone call with someone I have met during the past year. Some times these communications are just jokes that keep the day going, other times there are some serious questions posed regarding fire service ways, tactics, and leadership.
This blog has been a major part of the development of my group of folks the I call "The Network" but my involvement in our department's Local, our department's Accreditation process and just being engaged in regional schools and classes have also assisted in it. All of you reading are part of my group and I am proud to call you a friend, colleague, and a reader of this rag. Get out and get involved in your department, your local, or just take a class or two outside of your department. It will help you grow as a firefighter and a person.
Thank you to all the followers, readers, and haters of this blog whether you realize it or not you are helping me develop a great group of people to surround myself with. Let me also close by saying that I want to thank you for reading this, there are no shortage of blogs out there for you to read and it is an honor for you to take the time to read mine. I hope that in the words of Mark over at "Fully Involved" that I give you some positive influence to help you do your job better.