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How much is enough?


There has been a lot of talk lately about "shutting down" these so called "keyboard experts".  People call these keyboard experts out and demand their experience on the fire ground and often label these people as inexperienced therefore they should not speak on the subject.  It begged me the question: How much experience is enough?

If people of the fire service out there demand others to not weigh in to conversations because they are not experienced enough, then what does it take for them to be able to join in?  Does it take them being from a department like New York or Chicago or Escambia County?  If it is based on the department, I would argue that there are many members on each of those departments that would fit the "keyboard expert" profile that people have given it.  Within each department, there are busy houses and slow houses.  You all know what I am talking about.  Every department has their retirement station, so how are we supposed to know or measure someone based on their department if they are the ones at these types of stations?

That brings us to our next measurement.  Is one to be measured on just how busy they are?  Should we throw a number on how many fires you go to?  Then we get into types of fires as well as what your role was on those fires.  Commercial, residential, wild land, multi-alarm.  Also, If a guy is a rock star at search and ventilation, should we not listen to him when it comes to engine ops?  Where are we going to draw the line and either define what constitutes your voice being heard, or just accept the fact that some of the best coaches may have never played the game.  Knowledge vs. Experience

There is an old adage that says "Knowledge is power".  Nowhere in there does it say experience.  Some would argue that knowledge is gained through experience and I would have to agree with you to an extent.  Knowledge CAN be gained through experience but as many people that gain it through experience, there's just as many that gain it from other areas aside from experience.

There's people out there in the fire service fighting to preserve the interior fire attack.  They use phrases like "Interior Fire Attack is statistically safe".  Where do these statistics come from?  I would bet you that my department, as well as many of the departments that these "keyboard experts" come from are contributing to these statistics you speak of.  So I ask you, if our statistics are good enough for you to use, why isn't our voices?

So the question still stands.  How much experience is enough and how is that experience measured?  Further, how do I know that these same people dubbing this title to those who speak up, are credible enough to be listened to themselves?  There is not a definition to my knowledge that defines a "keyboard expert" and on the other side of that coin, there is not a definition that defines a true expert that should be listened to.

If we try to rule out some things that would contribute to you being worthy enough to speak up on some of these discussions, I would say we can rule out department, years on the job, and experience (until we can define how much is enough).  We aren't left with much to define these keyboard experts and further, we have no road map for them to become worthy enough. 

I challenge all of you out there that throw around the term "keyboard experts" to truly define it.  Invite us in to your thoughts on why these people are not worthy enough to join in a conversation and also tell us what makes someone able to be listened to.  It seems to me that people use this term of keyboard experts as a safe card to throw when someone comes along with a different opinion than you and you get threatened.  So please, prove me wrong.  Let's get some discussion going about who should and should not be listened to and why.  Just because it does not fit your beliefs, does not make it false nor does it make the person on the other end an idiot.

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Comment by Mark J. Cotter on July 6, 2015 at 8:22am

Nice post Mike!  While I draw on my various experiences when writing, and am proud of my record of service, my background truly is only meaningful to someone else if they intend to hire me.  As a blogger who is challenging the status quo, I expect, in turn, that my ideas will be attacked.  It goes with the territory, and anyone who posts something with his/her name on it should be ready for what can occasionally be "colorful" debates.  It is the message, not the messenger, that counts.  Persons who disagree with an opinion should offer their alternatives, and be willing to back it up in the exchange that inevitably follows.  Merely dismissing a writer on the basis of perceived qualifications might be easy, but it's also ineffective, as the original idea remains unchallenged.  After all, silence equals agreement.

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