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A friend of mine enjoyed every opportunity that he found to rag me about my profession.

Whenever he had an audience, his speech would detail how all that we did was play checkers, cards and dominos. That, he continued, was when we were awake and we were only awake for the games and when it was time to eat.

My friend is a heavy equipment operator. I came to expect his speech, since I heard it so often, and I finally came up with a suitable response. I agreed with him that my profession was very special and that not everyone was as fortunate as I and that I was grateful to be a part of such a special profession. I then agreed with his thoughts on my work schedule and his perception of what we do while at the firehouse.  I finally told him that I would appreciate it if he did not disturb our games or interrupt our meals, should his home every catch fire, and I suggested to him that he could simply put out the fire with his bulldozer.

Sometimes, we fail to communicate what we do and to correct false perceptions of what we do. It is particularly important to do so, since people don’t see us fighting hostile fire as frequently as they once did and since staffing is under constant scrutiny.

People frequently don’t understand why they asked for an ambulance and fire equipment arrived or why their fire truck is seen at the local grocery or why we complicate traffic at a single lane vehicle crash by parking sideways, taking their additional lanes, and creating unnecessary delays.

On the fire ground, I wonder how many people see us taking out windows and washing their possessions out of the front door with poorly placed hose lines and say to themselves “Damn, I could have done that myself” or “maybe I should have just called a bulldozer.”

Every member of the team, MUST understand the how, when, where and why of what we do, AND be able to explain it in understandable terms. This is vital, since all of our actions, and inactions, WILL be seen, judged and perceived in the court of social media.

There is a false perception that a Public Information Officer or a Media team is the only positive voice of the Fire Department. Although their voice is very important, they cannot be expected to successfully sell the great product that we market if their time is spent dealing with constant product recalls.

Accept the fact that ambassadorship and leadership come with the badge. Both require training and engagement, and neither requires promotion, collar decorations, adornments, hardware or rank.

Overcome negative outcomes and perceptions by translating and explaining your professional conduct into understandable terms. Explanation is less expensive than litigation. It is also reasonable and expected.

Can you role play your public perception situations and the diverse public relations opportunities of your community with every young person on the team?

Do you fold like a cheap accordion when questioned by pigeon activists or bulldozer anarchist whose purpose in life is disruption and making a mess?

Is the C in your PC world correctness or cowardice?

Would the fire in YOUR house be fought like the fire in THEIR house?

Are VENTILATION and demolition the same as viewed by the property owner?

“Why are they man hugging and high fiving my worst day?”

“Why didn’t they LAY OUT, STRETCH and PUSH before I cried for help?”

“They said someone TOOK THE HYDRANT, but it’s still there.”

“Their next GO DOWN will be to the media and to city hall.”

“That didn’t look like REHAB to me.”

Translate your local department terms to those in your community who are dying to meet you.

Their perception is our reality.

Thanks for reading, caring and sharing.

Have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it.

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