There is an argument being made that we cannot have a safe fire ground. This job, inherently filled with risk, will never see a day where everyone goes home. Can we find middle ground where safety and our duty receive equal treatment? Life is overflowing with risk and we perform life altering/ending actions on a daily basis just as human beings. Life as a Fire Service professional gives us a different perspective. We have training and education to handle when those risks of living life catch up to our neighbors. The question we must pose, do we all see the same way?
A personal perspective on the fire service. Sometimes I look at the fire service as school. Brand new personnel go through pre-school and kindergarten to get basics of playing with others and what its like to be here. As time passes, you move through the levels. Some really enjoy third grade and chose to stay there. They know enough to get by and decide to learn no more. Some have a good idea of what is going on, but are nervous about moving on to junior high and puberty is setting in making them feel awkward. Then there are those that have the sophomore attitude. They know a few things, are cocky about it and want to impress the seniors. What they lack however is experience, a broader perspective and maturity. Then there are the academics that seek higher education. They not only learn what is required and excel at it but also include after school activities to be well rounded. As a whole, the Fire Service is like a bunch of sixth graders. We are chasing girls, rather be playing football and we get an attitude with our parents.
Look at the public perspective of firefighting. The person watching an operation on the street may have no idea of what is happening and it may look like a horrific scene. The seasoned personnel on that same scene look at it as routine. Add a newly certified Firefighter to that picture, they are excited, nervous, curious and to some degree scared. Their perspective is completely different then the public and veteran member. Put that same working fire or accident into two places, the large metro department then the smallest village.
What are the contrasts in perspectives? The engine company composed of six professionals that see multiple fires in a shift compared to the nine member volunteer department that is may see fire once in their life. How can you justify that each of these perform to the same level, work within the same parameters and accept the same level of risk?
Several significant goals exist in the fire service. The most notable is service to our community. We accomplish this goal by being prepared to undertake any issue they may call us for. A company should show up, offer solutions in a professional manner then if needed provide a resolution. Highly trained and experienced people can only accomplish this feat. "When others can't, call the Fire Department" we take pride in this notion. Training and the passing of information and gathering experience is only second to the service we provide, yet without our qualities what would that service be like.
Once you have committed to providing a level of service, you now must commit to meet expectations. At the same time, others must not expect to do more than you are qualified, certified and experienced to perform. The level of service you are willing to give far out weighs the expectations that others place upon yourselves.
The world has changed significantly; we have been slow to keep up. Is that
the real issue? We know we have to change, but is it too fast, are we expecting
results to quickly, is this why we see such a divide in the camps? Do some have
experience yet it is not relevant to current conditions? Can experience expire?
Are we resistant to change because it is change? If we are seeking change, too
quickly we fail more often then succeed? Is our perspective blinding us to the
truth? To these questions, I have no solutions, but they need to be asked
What we see as a norm is high risks maneuver - driving. Millions of people
get behind the wheel of vehicles everyday. This has the potential to be cause
bodily harm and death, yet it is looked upon as routine. Our perspective, more
easily defined as our point of view, sees driving as a normal situation. A
brand new driver may be terrified the first time they are behind the wheel, or
possibly the first time they enter the expressway. Over time that same driver,
with practice, training and confidence will not think twice when the ignition
is turned over. Their perspective has now changed. As times change and auto
manufacturers evolve and dictate what our transportation needs are, does our
perspective change? Our course is does. It is evolution, it is necessary. The
cars we drive must take new forms in safety, comfort and features based on
those who are behind the wheel. As new drivers enter the lanes, their needs
differ from their predecessors and their perspectives.
Serve to protect your community to the degree YOU have committed. The fire
service is a global team that plays different games. Our perspective will
dictate what we are willing to do and what we are capable of doing. We can find our operations satisfy both safety and duty. Risk cannot be legislated away entirely. A perspective that understands who we have command and control over must direct operations with the abilities and knowledge of our people on scene. Our mission, the fire service as a whole, must share best practices. We can learn from everyone but it must be applied to our game, the way we play it. Part of our duty, an obligation even, is to seek knowledge and education to operate at a level that best serves those we swore to protect, including those we serve with. Before throwing stones try to see the view from their perspective.