There are several things that make my skin crawl when it comes to attitudes, performance and passion for our profession. If you read my blog you can probably nail down quite a few. For some reason there is one statement that I have heard several times over the last few months. This statement just shouts mediocrity, apathy, and indolence. This statement is: “I am not the officer, it’s not my responsibility”. This has generally been used in conversations about poor performance of fellow firefighters or their behavior around the firehouse. For example, I had a firefighter and good friend of mine go on to explain that a new firefighter in their station was not “being a good rookie”. That can be taken several different ways and we all have our idea of what that should be. Bottom line was, they were not taking care of the apparatus or the station, uniform appearance needed some work and respect up the ranks was absent. When I asked him why hasn’t he done anything about it and tried to handle it himself, his response was, “I am not his officer, and it’s not my job.” I just looked at him completely perplexed. Now, to say that the officer has ultimate responsibility over their firefighters is not wrong, in fact that’s probably the first person who should be looked at when there is a problem in the station. Sometimes those officers are to blame, and let’s face it, there are just some people out there who want to say they are firefighters and collect a paycheck and not BE firefighters. They will make it tough for everyone.
When I served in the military, I was always taught to handle things at ground zero, that is, to deal with problems and more importantly come up with solutions at the lowest level possible in the chain of command. I have tried my best to continue this in my fire service career. Is that being done in your firehouse? Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that don’t stay at ground zero, they have to be taken up the chain of command. Let’s get back to that rookie firefighter, or even one with some time. They are not checking off the trucks, don’t help with house work, have a poor attitude and walk around all day with their shirts untucked like they are ready to hit the surf. Why does it take an officer to correct this behavior? Why is there no accountability at the lowest level? To the firefighter that says “I am not the officer, it’s not my responsibility” you are doing nothing but showing a complete lack of reverence to your station and your department. How are you comfortable with knowing that someone is off the mark, but choose to do nothing about it? Especially if they are in your own station! What a cop-out. The best part is I have seen the same firefighters that say this, in line for the promotional exams. How contradictory is that? What they are displaying is that they don’t want to take ownership or responsibility unless they have some gold on their shirt and are getting paid for it. Ridiculous!
To say it is not our job, or responsibility couldn’t be further from the truth. We all took an oath, and we all have a mission statement to uphold. My mission statement probably goes much like most of yours, essentially, to protect life and property. Furthermore, we have a set of core values; the guiding principles on which we perform our work and conduct ourselves. Let me say those last couple words again, conduct ourselves. This is your job, this is our mission. If you or I choose not to take responsibility for those that we work alongside, we contribute to a failed mission. So, next time you or someone you work with uses that absurd statement of: I am not the officer, it’s not my responsibility, remind them of why they are here. They are here to lead by example; to train their fellow firefighters and hold themselves and others accountable at the lowest level within our ranks. We like to call ourselves professionals. If that holds true, than we all need to act like it and not use a cop-out such as it’s not my job or responsibility. Sometimes the best change starts from the bottom up, and if you don’t believe that people can be influenced, give it a shot today, you might just be surprised. Not every problem or issue needs to be bounce off of us like Teflon and placed on somebody else. You may realize that with just a little peer pressure and intervention from the bottom we can change attitude or behavior, leading to good performance. It is our responsibility!
Jarrod Sergi Trial by Fire