As 2014 draws to a close, many of us take the time to reflect. Where are we now in comparison to where we were a year ago, both personally and professionally? As an individual? As an organization? As a profession? If you're as passionate about the fire service as I am (as I am sure you are), then you understand how important it is to balance your passion for the craft with family -- to balance your life appropriately and not forget what's most important. So, as you reflect and set your goals for 2015, why not be efficient in your approach? Why not consider setting a professional goal that has a direct impact on not only your performance as a firefighter but also your personal life and those that care for you and depend on you the most?
Most would agree that 2014 has been an unprecedented year in terms of lively discussion about "how we do things" as a profession. And while we don't always agree on tactics, one thing we can all agree on is that we want LODDs to go away. The thing is, it takes work; it takes commitment. It's not enough to train on skills and continually hone our craft -- it's a vital aspect of what we do, yes, but it's not enough. It’s also not enough to simply talk about it or passively agree about what we should be doing. Imagine if we, as a profession, put as much effort into the health and wellness of our people as we do emphasizing the need to train for optimal performance on the fireground. I've said it before, and I will continue to say it: No matter how good you do your job, you're not an asset to anyone if you do not remain mentally and physically prepared to carry out the tasks required of us...expected of us. Simply put, you must take care of yourself – it’s a requirement of our profession. Too many people depend on you for you to shirk this responsibility.
In 2015, as we continue to work toward a safer fireground, as we stress the importance of being intelligently aggressive in what we do, it’s also time to stress goals that focus on improving our mental and physical capacity to do the job – to set a goal to help the younger firefighters become older firefighters by addressing the things we can control!
Every fire department has a champion; a champion that is ready to promote the three things that will have the most meaningful impact on LODD reduction of all the approaches we take: physicals, fitness, and behavioral health. When we finally address these critical components of firefighter safety, united as a profession, we will see the numbers drop. If we focus on these components in tandem with continually stressing the importance of knowing our jobs well enough to be intelligently aggressive in carrying out our sworn duties, we will have made an even bigger impact.
At the end of the day, we all want to go home. Treating our own health and wellness as a job requirement is one of the most effective ways to make sure we do -- in fact,it's a direct path to LODD reduction. Be the voice and example that motivates others to take pride not only in what we do and how well we do it, but also in the indisputable fact that if we do not take care of ourselves, we are doing a disservice to all those that depend on us.
Make an impact. Be your organization's champion in 2015.
Dan Kerrigan is a 28-year fire service veteran and an assistant fire marshal/deputy emergency management coordinator and department health and fitness coordinator for the East Whiteland Township Department of Codes and Life Safety in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Kerrigan is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program and holds a Master’s Degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership. He is a PA State Fire Academy Suppression Level Instructor as well as an adjunct professor at Anna Maria College and Immaculata University. Contact Kerrigan at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @dankerrigan2.