Beyond the Door
"What Vs. Why"
The Fire Service continues to be the last line of defense for those we serve. As hazards evolve we continue to be the "All Hazards" mitigation agency. Those who have gone before us have created an expectation in the public that we are the" go to" agency. This is what draws a great deal of the people we hire. We must always know our history and our craft.
There has been a shift. We have moved to a generation that has instant access to information and an expectation of just that. I am speaking mostly of the newly hired employees (and those who frequently use technology to enhance lives). They quickly want the answers, often times before they even fully understand the question. They want to know in what order to deploy resources to score well on the next promotional exam. They will manage the radio and clipboard as opposed to mitigating the event in front of them. They never saw the importance of why we do it.
In this profession it is imperative to fully understand "The Craft"; much like any other professional understands theirs. We must strive to understand why as opposed to what. Most recent Tactical Classes cater to this new desire. We now have clipboards and flow charts that help us connect the dots and instructors who use Hot Wheels and clipboards.
By no means am I criticizing the makers or the users of the boards or systems. In the hands of a competent fire officer at a larger incident they can be effective. The caution is learning the craft while relying on a board is similar to learning to cook becoming reliant on the recipe. Therefore if you find yourself without a certain ingredient or God forbid forget to bring the recipe out of the engine, you are ineffective.
We have become a submissive culture being told to sit quietly in the classroom and accept anything from the Instructor. If you do not have the opportunity as a student to ask why and have it explained to you then you are “fellowshipping” with the wrong team. As a company officer you should not tolerate a “bully” instructor. Sometimes you may choose to ask your questions at the break as an offering of respect. You have a duty to ask the questions and seek the depth of knowledge on topics. There are times that you must stand the gap for the new employees in the room. They are the sheep and you are the Shepherd. You must be careful to not be confrontational but inquisitive. There are too many instructors who have picked up their cross in the name of safety and are creating a timid unsafe fireground that you and your crews will be soon summoned to.
There are “bullies” currently teaching on the network that demand that they are correct and will not interact with you to “help you understand”. They will even play random segments of fire scene footage without fully researching the information and seeking permission from the members who are in the video.
As an instructor it is highly recommended that you have an intimate knowledge of the pictures and videos you choose to share. Contact the department and ask their permission and insight into the event. If you subscribe to this you will never find yourself speaking ill of an event only to have the soap box pulled out from under you by another person who has more information. Be cautious speaking ill of brother firefighters in action, instead watch the building, smoke and events unfold with an eye to see what your crews would have done. Before you talk about how dangerous and foolish something is, perhaps even watch a video of your department on the internet.
We must seek depth of knowledge. It should enchant you to understand why. While you are in the classroom you should watch the video predicting the next hostile event as opposed to sitting in the classroom staring waiting for the instructor to spoon feed you. Even more so, you should be watching the screen while you are rapidly coming up with tactical assignments and tasks that if executed immediately will ensure victory and domination of the event in front of you. IF you cannot predict the hostile events before they happen, watch the video again and again. Demand to know what you missed. Demand to know the signs that are evident. If you do this you will attract others with similar interests. They will want to follow your leadership even if it just to see where you are going. Remember, people don't care what you know until they know that you care.
Stay in the game and keep training. Be open to see what is out there but make sure that your internal compass is set and calibrated regularly. You do this by spending time and energy with those who have a passion for this life you live, the life in the fire service.
This job gets real, real quick.