Have you had much experience inside of a hoarder house? You know the type of house where there is just a tremendous amount of stuff packed to the ceilings dying to bust through the walls. Yet the owner of this stuff refuses to let it go. I’m sure some of you have. I’m sure of it because I see it in my own organization so I am certain it is all around the country. The type of hoarder house I am referring to is a hoarder in a firehouse. The stuff packed to the ceiling equating to the knowledge, and the walls to the brain. They type of firefighter that has so much to offer to both new and senior members but just refuses to do so.
There is nothing that bothers me more about these hoarders than their lack of will to pass along information to others. I have sat through some conversations and heard many firefighters tell me, “these new firefighters aren’t being taught anything", or “these new firefighters won’t ever be where I used to be”. One of my favorites is "this place used to be great". Well sure they sure wont if you choose to hold onto your years of experience and not share it with others. Sure the department will not be what you believe it used to be when you just sit around on your hands. There is nothing more disappointing than a knowledge firefighter with years of fireground experience not sharing what they have learned over the course of their career. We all want to leave our fire departments better than when we found it don't we? My goal is to be able to look back and know that I was able make an impact on just a few firefighters and to give something back to my department that will impact the way we do business. I am far away from retirement and will probably leave this department when they force me out of the door, but I can understand the feeling of leaving a profession like this after being surrounded by it for so long. It becomes a part of you. Don’t we all want to leave a little bit of ourselves when we go? Don’t we all want to pass along and share what we have learned to improve the greater good? Unfortunately, we know the answer, and that is no. Not everyone chooses to do this and therefore they are just being a hoarder. It is truly a shame.
For those of you that share your triumphs, mistakes and things that have helped you along the way, your impact can be monumental. Thank you! I take a look at the mentors I have in the fire service and within my department and I wonder, where would I be if these guys never shared their knowledge with me. I was hungry for it as a brand new person and today am still hungry for more. Continue to pass along information, experiences, tricks of the trade and best practices to guys like me and everyone else around you. This will allow you to leave the organization knowing you didn’t make just an impact, but a lasting impact, that will carry on for years and years. You can contribute to the ripple effect within your department.
For those that refuse to share your knowledge and experience, you are doing nothing but being a firehouse hoarder. Listening to all your fire stories and how many fires you went to years back is always very exciting to listen to and gets my blood pumping. Admittedly, I probably have a little bit of jealously mixed in there as well. The best is when these stories are followed up by lessons learned or little pearls of wisdom. The story we don’t want to hear is how you are tired of seeing people coming into your organizations not knowing anything, while all you do is sit around the galley table and gripe about it, essentially doing nothing to help it! The stories are great, but they are just stories if you don’t pass along the details that led to these great events and what you took away from them. Things like the value of hard work, accountability, the importance of training, pride in your job and the importance of our traditions. Many things that are important to you, will most likely be important to others. Get off your butts and do something about it. Teach people, mentor people; otherwise, when you leave the fire service the only one you have to blame for your department not being “the way it used to be” is you! Talk will get you nowhere, show it in your actions and share you knowledge with as many people as you can. Don't turn your firehouse into a hoarder house.