Over my short career in the fire service, I have been asked many times: “Why do you care so much?” I often answer with: because I can.
Everyone should have that reason to get out of bed and get the day started. Many days it is I have to work, or I have to tend to my son, but either way it is a purpose.
We each have earned, or are allowed depending on your view, another day on the right side of the dirt, so why not make the most of it? So why train everyday? Training continuously on the basics may seem out of sorts for many, but we must realize this is skill reinforcement for all of us. We need this skill reinforcement to ensure top-notch performances; and why perform our best on every call? Because we can.
As you sit down at the firehouse, you can think about whether to retire to the recliner for the day or find something to train on. I am sure that there are plenty of fallen firefighters’ families wishing that their loved one could be training with you shoulder-to-shoulder every day you work. Those families envy the fact that you are afforded a chance to train on the same skills that their loved ones may have needed when they were struck with tragedy.
Many firefighters make a mistake that costs them their life on an emergency scene—even something as simple as wearing their seatbelt. Unfortunately, these firefighters never got the chance to learn from their mistakes, so why should we? Well, I think you have figured out by now the reason why we learn is because we can.
We have all discussed mistakes and the importance for us as firefighters to accept and learn from them. Inevitably, we will all have a few uh oh’s and our ability to learn from them shape us both as an individual and as a firefighter. The last thing we need is a firefighter who makes the same mistakes time and time again without taking any sort of knowledge from them. Corrective action in our trade is generally the driver of change rather than progressive thinking, so one could say learning from your mistakes is a foundation of the fire service whether we like it or not.
After I finish my shift, I always look forward to arriving home to see my family, as I hope all of you do. I value the time at home as much, or more, than I do the time I spend at the firehouse (despite what my wife may tell you). There are only 936 Saturdays between the time a child is born and the day they turn 18, so family days should be important since we will miss 1/3 of them afforded to us. If this figure doesn’t make you pause to think about all of those Saturdays you have chosen the fire service over your family, you need to look closely at your priorities. To be successful at nearly any rank in the fire service, one must have a strong support mechanism at home, and mine is my wife. Value the time at home as much as the time at the firehouse and be as passionate at home as you are at work. So why choose family time over some other choice?
Because we can
I am sure many of you feel incorporating some new concepts into your department may be a longshot; I understand that. However, with this community around you, know that support is there and that we will help in any way because we can. Change is never easy and will never be accepted by all, but we need to attempt to effect positive change simply because we can.
I now challenge you to hit the drill ground, study a NIOSH report, hit the gym, and hang out with the family, because you have been blessed with another day to get better. Get better every day, value each day as a blessing, and as Ghandi said: “be the change you want to see in the world”. Why? Because you can.