The other day I was reading the January issue of Fire Engineering and came across the Paul Combs cartoon about how a single firefighters bad behavior affects all of us in the fire service. (Fire Engineering, January 2015) I then thought of all the bad stories I had been reading lately about firefighters caught having sex in departmental vehicles and stations on duty, a former fire chief pleading guilty to grand larceny, a firefighter charged with sexual battery of a patient, another chief who gets 6 months in prison for stealing $45,000, a bunch of volunteer firefighters accused of being arsonists and having a "fire cult". The list goes on and on. If you want to see more examples just go here:www.firefighterbehavior.com Black eyes we all suffer from whether we like it or not. So what does it take to get the fire service beyond this? Ours is an institution that has worked very hard throughout the years to earn the trust of the public we serve. Yet it seems on an almost daily basis, someone in our ranks is doing their best to tear it all down. I once had a Battalion Chief tell me, when I was still a young, wet behind the ears noob, "Son, people trust us. They open their doors and invite us, total strangers, into their house because they know we are there to help. They know we will not steal their possesions or harm their loved ones. They trust us. It is our responsibility to make sure we honor and respect that trust every day on and off this job." I took that to heart and have given it my all to ensure I have heeded those words for the past 35 years. I know that most of us here share that same feeling, otherwise we would not do what it is we do with such passion and devotion I have been so proud and humbled to witness from my brothers and sisters over the years. So again, I ask, what do we need to do? Back in 2010, this same question was asked by the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association. They felt that this type of behavior was so endemic and harmful to our great profession that they wrote a white paper on the subject entitled: Fire Service Reputation Management which can be found here: http://www.cvvfa.org/ Their hope was to start a national conversation on how to prevent these bad behaviors, to manage them when they did occur, and to try to regain this nation's high regard for the fire service. After several years of debate a group known as the National Society of Executive Fire Officers created and released what is now known as the National Firefighter Code of Ethics. The story and a link to the Code of Ethics can be found here: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/code_of_ethics.pdf So my question to you is: Does your department have a Code of Ethics? Do you start talking about it and teaching it from the first day of your academy to your new recruits? Do company officers have a copy and do they stress it to their firefighters and live by it to set an example? Is it posted prominently in every station so firefighters are reminded daily? Is it supported by Chief Officers who also enforce it with not only their words but their actions? If you or your department do not, why? If you do, does it meet the questions I asked, or is it tucked away in a drawer somewhere covered in dust? Until we as a group make the conscious decision to do this then we will only see this problem continue to escalate. I challenge every company officer out there, every chief officer out there to take this code of ethics and shout it from the top of every fire station. To support it, embrace it, and put it to good use if you have not done so already. And for those of us who do have them, take a look at it. Take it out of that drawer, dust it off, show it to your folks and start holding them accountable. And that accountability needs to go both ways, from the big chief all the way down to the newest probie and back up again. I hate black eyes. They are painful, look bad, and stay around for awhile. I especially hate wearing them because of someone else's error in judgment. Stay safe brothers and sisters. And like my daddy always told me: "Do the right thing, even when nobody's looking".