Sitting on my couch last night watching TV and just relaxing, I saw an update from Fire Engineering about a LODD in the Houston Fire Department. I read the details about the incident up to that point and immediately my thoughts went out to the firefighters in Houston and the affected families. There are usually a few things that go through my head when I hear about a line of duty death. The first thing is usually think about is that firefighters family and how they are going to have to cope. One of my subsequent thoughts will usually be: how do incidents such as these not open people eyes?
I am sure we all have that friend or coworker that is a smoker. We may ask them: How do you continue to smoke even after seeing the long term effects it can have on your health? Usually we go on to explain about how that last congestive heart failure patient, or patient with cardiac disease could be them if they don’t stop. We tend to throw in there the phrase: you should know better because you are surrounded by it every day.
I think along these same lines when I see line of duty deaths that involve firefighters dying on the fireground. I think to myself, how could people continue to not hold themselves and others accountable? I have seen firefighters balk at the idea of doing any sort of MAYDAY training. I have heard firefighters complain about stretching hose lines because “that’s rookie stuff man; we know how to pull a line”. What is it going to take to make us realize that we are in a dangerous profession that requires 100% of our effort while we are at the fire stations? My skin has crawled because I have heard officers say, my chief doesn’t care about training so why should I? Are you kidding me? What a pathetic excuse. There should have been a drop box for that person to turn in their collar brass. What is it going to take to make people want to conduct realistic training that will one day potentially save their life, and the lives of those they swore to protect? What is it going to take to make officers stop making excuses and blaming their bosses for not caring? So they don’t care, but you and I can and should, and it has to start somewhere.
If it sounds like I am painting everyone with the same brush that is the last thing I am doing. Usually as we all know, it’s the minority of the organization that displays this apathy. Unfortunately, it’s also the minority whose voice is usually the loudest. They are like infectious ticks sucking the life out of the organization, and worse, new firefighters that see their behavior. I am just completely blown away that there are firefighters out there who see these LODD and out of one side of their mouth they talk about the tragedy and how we must learn from these events, and on the other side whine and complain about training, being held accountable and making themselves prepared every day for a job that they competed so hard to get.
So what does it take? I don’t think I have that answer. I will continue to wonder why there are firefighters out there, professionals out there, who see these kinds of events unfold and continue to be apathetic to the fact that it will never happen to them. All you and I can do is lead by example, hold ourselves accountable and do our best to make those around us understand the importance of what we do and how every day we have the opportunity to train and increase our chance of survival on the fireground so that someone else doesn’t end up watching our LODD on the television or some other news feed and wonder all of the same things I just talked about.