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              I was watching an Agricultural show the other morning and they were talking about the severe drought that California farmers are facing.  A farmer who was interviewed stated that California is saying they have to limit their water usage but still expect the same output of crop and payment of bills that come along with it.  After the interview, the host of the show said something that I found very interesting and fitting into our world.  He said: If the California farmers are going to be successful, they will have to get creative and Challenge the Traditions of farming. 


            The more I thought about how he worded that, the more I thought that he couldn’t have chose a better set of words.  Challenge Traditions.  I started to think about what each of those words meant to me.  So I decided to look them up.  Here is how Webster defines each word(mind you, there is more than one definition).


Challenge: to question the action or authority of


Tradition: a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time


            The California farmer is faced with a new set of issues and must overcome those issues if they are going to be successful.  Let’s think about their situation for a second.  They have been farming for a very long time.  Is there anything wrong with the way they’ve been doing it?  Absolutely not.  They have been very successful for a very long time.  So, why the comment of challenging the traditions?   The answer is, their environment has changed.  They have a great method of farming, until their water is taken away.  They are expected to turn the same crop yet things that they have no control over have occurred presenting them with an opportunity to prove that they can step up to the plate, Challenge the Traditions of farming, and decide if they need to change their way of business in order to be successful.


            I assure you that this article is not to inform you about the farming crisis in California.  I found the choice of words by the host very intriguing into what’s happening in our fire service.  Challenge Traditions.  What a great way to say it.  Like we saw before, Challenge in no way says that a change is expected at the end. Challenge does not say that the current practice is wrong.  Challenge only says, in this definition, to question the action.  It’s truly a beautiful word when you think about it. 


            Think of a public speaker.  If you went with a large group to hear a public speaker speak on a particular topic, chances are, a majority of people would walk out of that speech agreeing with whatever that speaker had to say.  It is not until a different speaker steps up to fill you in to the other side of the argument that you begin to see that the first speaker may have been wrong, or at least you have a different way of thinking about what they said.  That is the almighty Tradition.


            Traditions do not only apply to actions such as washing the recently delivered rig and pushing it into the station.  Traditions involve tactics.  “Our department is traditionally an interior attack dept.”  That is an example of how the word tradition can apply to tactics.   Now back to the word challenge.


            When we talk about traditions being tactics and we apply the definition of Challenge, we can analyze our tactics from a very unbiased perspective.  When what we have done for many years is being threatened, we become very hesitant and sometimes completely against whatever new things are put in front of us.  If we go into this with the mindset of simply Challenging our traditions as well as challenging the new things entering our world, we can truly know that we have the best mindset of our firefighters as well as our community.


            Like the farmers, we too face challenges outside of our control.  Ours might not be rain, but our environment has and is changing.  When you think of your tactics and you think of UL/NIST research, take what they do and put it to the test in your own respective fire organizations.  Test your current tactics.  Challenge both of them with the goal of seeing which one or ones will work in your organization.  If you challenge your traditional methods and they work better for your organization, Great! If we never challenge them, however, we might be turning down opportunities for improvement that may flip our worlds up side down at the very next ring of that bell.  Be safe and Challenge Traditions!

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