Lately I have heard a lot of negativity toward the use of the word aggressive in our fire service vocabulary. Whether in casual conversations, seminars or online learning outlets I have heard a sense of dismay for the use of this word. I heard one fire service member say that it should be removed from our dictionary because it is going to get someone hurt; that is a macho term that has no place in our profession. Some tend to associate this word with being reckless or careless on the fireground. This is not necessarily true. Let’s take a look at the definition of aggressive. According to Merriam Webster aggressive is defined as: marked by combative readiness; marked by driving, forceful energy or initiative; ready and willing to fight. That sounds like a pretty darn good description of the type of firefighters I want working by my side on the fireground. Firefighters who train to be as close to perfect as they can be, firefighters who take initiative and are willing to get in there and uphold our organizations mission statement of protecting life and property. There is a big difference between being aggressive and being reckless. A reckless firefighter makes poor decisions, does not train, and is undisciplined and careless on the fireground. Most importantly, a reckless firefighter is one who cares nothing about the consequences of his or her actions or inactions.
I think it is important we understand the difference between the two terms and the true meaning of the word aggressive. This word belongs everywhere in our fire service vocabulary. I would proudly explain to Joe Public that I am surrounded by a disciplined, well trained, aggressive firefighting force. You know what? I would imagine they might just have some comfort knowing that. I want my company to be aggressive; aggressive in training, aggressive when deliver medical care, aggressive on the fireground while making smart tactical decisions. Some would argue that by using the word aggressive we invoke unsafe acts and cause our members to take unneeded risks and get them hurt. This couldn’t be further from the truth. By not training, not holding each other accountable, and not being students of the fire service is how we get people hurt. This profession doesn’t need reckless firefighters it needs aggressive ones!