Lately I have started to notice an increase of the word “employee” when describing a firefighter. I have heard it in casual conversations about evaluations, physical assessments, management etc. Why do we use this term? I know we are all employees of an organization in the eyes of council members and politicians, but shouldn’t we be more than just employees? If we refer to Merriam-Webster we see that an employee is defined as: “a person who works for another person or for a company for wages or a salary.” When we look at the definition for a firefighter we see the following: “a person who cares for persons or property; a member of a fire department who tries to extinguish fires.” Does this not sound more honorable, more respectful?
In my opinion, if you are in a position of leadership in your department and you are calling your firefighters employees, it just sounds hollow. I know it does to me. I am not just an employee. I am a firefighter. A much more noble description is not only more appropriate, it has been earned. Think about a recent LODD or an article describing heroic events of a firefighter. Now replace the word firefighter with employee. Would that read the same to you? Would that make you revere their efforts? Does that offer the same amount of respect?
I am not asking you to remove the word employee from your vocabulary, ok wait, yes I am. Just think about it the next time you hear it, or are saying it yourself. Our firefighters deserve more than just being called employees. We have a long tradition of sacrifice, honor, and courage. We are more than employees, we are FIREFIGHTERS!