The fire service has so many different sayings and mottos that they become cliche and difficult for newer firefighters to truly understand what they mean. But, more than just saying these slogans and even understanding, in some cases we need to make sure we act on those mantras.
One of the sayings that I hear a great deal of and say myself is "do the right thing." For some of us we probably take for granted that the persons we are telling this to know what it means to do that. Especially when we consider the younger firefighters who will sit there and listen to senior guys and officers telling them "listen to me, just do the right thing and you'll be fine." Well, what does that exactly mean?
It means a lot of things, and it is a fluid, dynamic metaphor for being the things that embody the spirit of what being a firefighter is. Honorable, trustworthy, dependable, caring, brave, compassionate, confident, sympathetic, enthusiastic, and the list could go on.
This column could take a great deal of time, but we will offer a few examples that might be confronted by a new, or senior firefighter, on a daily basis that could define them. Everyday we are all confronted with decisions that will and do test us-----to see if we will do the right thing.
If you wouldn't do it with others watching or paying attention, then you probably shouldn't do it. This includes taking short cuts, accepting mediocrity and leaving work for others that you walked past because it wasn't "your problem."
Walking past a problem is lazy and shows a severe lack of initiative and responsibility, however we constantly see incomplete tasks passed onto the next crew or shift. Since you are aware of it, it is now a part of your problem and you have a responsibility to address it. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to fix everyone's problems, but somebody needs to at least know that there is an issue.
After a working fire do you clean all of your equipment and tools? Do you wipe off the radios, the TIC, the SCBA and harness? Is there drywall on the seats of the apparatus from your gear? What about the nozzles and the hand tools, are they clean and ready to go on the next run? Is the hose packed right and neat for and easy deployment or was it just quickly thrown in the tray so you could get back to bed?
Those little things show that you have attention to detail and that you care about the job and those that will have to use that equipment after you. That's how you need to look at it; who is next to use this equipment on the next fire? Should they check the equipment when they come in? Yes. But what if they get that run right at shift change? We all depend on each other to ensure we are doing the right thing.
There are many other examples that can be applied to this and I'm sure you can think of a few on your own too. The bottom line is this: see a need, fill a need. What you do when nobody is looking is who you really are. And the people we work with depend on each other to "do the right things, all of the time, for the right reasons."