As much as we’d like to think that the fire service is heralded as being public servants, all too often the fire service receives a black eye in the news. Often the media is quick to report the mistakes made by some. If its not the local media outlet, social media will be sure to catch up and highlight some negative thing that occurred or appeared to have occurred! Rarely do we see positive stories such as the one that prompted this blog.
What have you done this week that positively impacts a member of your community? No, I’m not referring to times when you were called to respond. When a member of the community calls us for service, we are doing our job. We are performing to the level of expectations that have been asked of us when the community member called 9-1-1. I am talking about the little things that you did that were extra. The little things that are easy to overlook are what I want to hear about. Well, can you answer?
A few members of the Old Saybrook (CT) Fire Department do not have to search for the answer. They do not have to ponder when they went above and beyond to positively impact a few members of their community.
Each and everyday firefighters do phenomenal things. We save lives, protect property and make life and death decisions with limited information. Each and every situation starts with some sort of size up and evaluation of the risk versus reward.
Remember those days growing up looking for some odd job to earn some money? Remember going around the neighborhood with your newest “job” venture to make a few dollars so you can buy yourself some candy or other special treat? Did you ever participate in a roadside lemonade stand? Remember how great it would feel when a car stopped to buy a glass of your “special” lemonade! Now, imagine a fire truck stopping and all members getting out to purchase a cup.
Size this up; you and your crew are driving down a residential street returning from a call or out learning your district. Three kids are standing near the street selling cups of lemonade for $0.25. Do you stop or simply hit the air horns and keep driving?
Most kids become excited at the simple act of you hitting the air horns and waving at them. However, these kids will never forget the day the firefighters stopped, parked their rig and got out to buy their lemonade! They may have sold 500 cups that day, but the only ones they will remember are those sold to the firefighters!
Another great example comes from our brothers and sisters in blue. This positive story that could easily be firefighters and not police officers.
In Rosenberg, Texas two police officers, Officer C. Car and E. Marmol, stopped and played a little basketball with two young children from their community. The Facebook page where this photo was posted mentioned the Rosenberg Police Department’s administration encourages this type of activity. I completely agree with the administration by encouraging this activity.
Those children who sold the firefighters lemonade or played two on two with the police officers will tell their parents, friends and classmates for years to come. In the Social Media age it will probably be TWEETED or posted on Facebook as before you are even back at the station.
All too often we miss these small opportunities to make big positive impacts in our community. We can make or break the reputation of the department in seconds. You can also create a relationship that turns out provides you with your biggest allies.
Who are their parents? They are likely taxpayers who will vote on the department budget. Will they turn out for a local referendum for a capitol purchase or for the new firehouse? Or will they speak out against station closures or reduction in manpower?
I was taught to respect everyone whose path I cross. My father told me many times, “You just never know who you treat with respect today and how they may help you tomorrow” and “Treat everyone today the way you want them to treat you tomorrow”.
Many days we won’t have to make the life and death decisions. However everyday is an opportunity to do something “little” that will have a big impact on your entire department.
I encourage Chief Officers to share this blog with your membership and encourage positive community involvement and visibility within your districts. We should be taking positive steps to build relationships and positively impact our community members especially the youth. This does not mean we should be utilized to “patrol” or stage apparatus to deter crime.
Read “Little Things” Part 1 here -