I know I don’t need to tell you this, but your department doesn’t have all the answers; neither does your Chief, your Training Officer or you. For that matter, no fireground or emergency scene has ever, or will ever, go flawlessly. We’re human. We’re imperfect. And that’s okay, although this doesn’t mean that we should be satisfied with the status quo, but instead we should strive for excellence. If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that we’re in agreement so far.
For any firefighter or fire department to reach excellence, they must first look within themselves. We’ve already discussed the importance of self-analysis in our personal quest for total badassery, but it also works wonders for your department. After looking within, and coming to the undeniable realization that there’s room for improvement in your department, you need to identify where, and be specific. It could be something relatively small like reducing your curb-to-cut time, or increasing your efficiency on a stretch; or something more complex and dynamic like overhauling your SOPs/SOGs, or increasing department morale. It’s important to understand that you don’t need to be the Chief to drive or affect change in your department; as Aaron Fields so eloquently puts it, “Water boils from the bottom.” Now once you’ve found an area(s) that could use a little enhancement, you can then begin to look up and look out for a solution. Look up from your desk, and look outside your department for novel ideas to solve your problem(s). This might mean looking across town, across state lines or even across the pond.
Too often, too many of us are trying to solve every problem by ourselves. Why? There are brilliant firefighters all over the world that have had the same problem that your department is currently facing. Learn from their successes and their failures. Take advantage of their experience and their hindsight. The magnitude of the fire service is enormous, yet any given firefighter is only a fingertip away. Most of these brothers and sisters are more than willing to discuss their triumphs and their mistakes…and you can learn a ton from both. They’re happy to tell you the specifics of what they learned, what they would have done differently, and why something worked, or didn’t work for them.
The magnitude of the fire service is enormous, yet any given firefighter is only a fingertip away.
The fire service is full of subject matter experts that have been where you’re at. These are passionate individuals that have dedicated endless time, effort and sweat to a single discipline, or aspect of the job, all for our collective benefit. Seek out these brothers and sisters, attend their classes, ask them questions, bring them in, talk to them and learn from them. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel whenever we get a flat tire…if you look up, and look out, you'll find a brother waiting to help you.
Once you’ve done your research and found potential solutions, you can then discuss it in-house and tweak it until you have the best answer for your problem, with your firefighters, in your community. Collectively, we need to utilize this worldwide mutual aid for answers to questions that have already been asked countless times before, by countless departments around the globe. The answer to your question is out there, you just need to find it; and with the right attitude, effort and assistance, you will always find your answer. Like everything else worthwhile in life, this won’t be easy, but you have millions of brothers and sisters to help you out.
Now let’s go get sweaty.