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Journal Entry 39 – School’s Open, Drive Carefully (I mean us!)

I’m sure one of these categories fits you. Summer camp is done and the kids are bored, and driving you nuts. The kids are back to school or are going back to school shortly. You dropped your college student at the campus for another year of who knows what? Vacationing at the camp grounds, Disney, a resort, a remote island, the south of France or the back yard stay-cation are a distant memory. Did I hit it yet? One thing is for sure. We’re about to embark on the fall season and school is just about in session or will be any minute everywhere. So, the old bumper stickers are being distributed and are affixed to everything and everybody which say “School’s Open, Drive Carefully.” (So, when school is not open, can we drive like idiots? :) What struck me this time is that for us, school is always open so we need to drive carefully every single day. My career department trains every day. Volunteers have one or two drill nights a week or on the weekends. Add to this our thirst for knowledge as we read every magazine and web site that starts and ends with the word “fire.” Yes, for us school is always in session.

So what’s your point Chief? Thanks for asking. My point is that we get comfortable and complacent with driving like we do with everything else. For those of us who see frozen water in the winter (you guys in Phoenix and San Diego, take a reading break) we always seem to buck up, drive real careful and out of true necessity, go slow so we can get there and take care of those wonderful folks we call townspeople, constituents, customers, tax payers, etc. We must drive like that under those conditions. It only makes sense. But what about now, the fall and the spring? For busy urban departments where companies are taking 10, 15, 20 runs a tour, it becomes second nature for that driver. How many drivers/engineers/chauffeurs do you know who can whip an engine or tower ladder around like he’s driving a Camaro? I know lots. But cooler heads must prevail. If the driver is too comfortable or gets complacent, the other passenger sitting in the right front seat needs to step up and slow him/her down. “Ahhh, dry pavement on a warm sunny day, it’s Indy time!” No it’s not. Leave that to the guys and gals who make left turns real fast on an enclosed track. School is always open for us.

We train for the things we need to be good at. (I’ll spare you the list.) The idea is not to become lazy and complacent. I agree with the muscle memory concepts so we really don’t have to think about certain things we do, but I’ll ask that you think about re-committing to driving carefully so we get there and back in one piece. Lots of apparatus accidents lately with two of our own or us and a civilian. We can do better. Set the example on the road. Big, bad, red and noisy does not give us mental permission to go through red lights and stop signs. It’s about getting there in one piece with everyone on board staying in one piece. Drive carefully and don’t kill anyone on the way. We had 932 firefighter fatalities from 1977-2007, responding to and returning from. We can fix that. 

The fire service is a rotating ball like the earth. We naturally gravitate to it and yet there is always the potential to spin out control. We crave to absorb information to make us better at what we do like the earth looks for rain to re-nourish itself. School for us is always open, always in session, so always drive carefully, not just in September. Remember that it’s not just a car that can be recalled by its maker. 


Be well, stay well, be safe,

Ronnie K                     

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