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Poking the Bear, in the Name of Justice

Everyday firefighters risk something. In the traditional sense, it’s our life, so that we may save the life of another. We risk our health, as we are exposed to hidden carcinogens around the apparatus bay, and on fire scenes. We put our bodies through hell with working shift work, and our emotional health is even worse due to the gruesome scenes we encounter. We do this, because we took an oath to protect people, we have a duty to act. It is why we take risks on a daily basis. But do these risks only pertain directly to the calls for help that we receive daily? There is another arena of risk, that firefighters have the potential to find themselves in. The door to this arena is passed by frontline leaders everyday. On the other side of this door is a bear, a big angry bear. Now, as a leader, you can choose to walk past the door, or you can stop and go in. Inside this door, is the bear, that goes by the name of Injustice. Here comes the true test of a leader. Will you go through this door, and poke the bear? The bear represents many things. It could be a Chief that unfairly goes after your firefighters, the very firefighters that are willing to put their lives on the line for the citizens and yourself. It could be a political machine falsely portraying you and your firefighters as thieves with greedy pensions. What if it is a group of professionals that are the first to the race in research, and try to change a paradigm without offering all of the information, or following the rules of science? Your superiors start to change the way you operate based on data from this group. Tactics that you know to be tried and true, that have saved multiple lives, are now questioned. You are given a suggested replacement tactic, that was born of research that was not fairly compared to the status quo, using inaccurate data, and lacking scientific integrity. Who will take on Injustice, the bear? Will you stand up for your firefighters, even though the bear may tear your limbs off? The bigger question is, would your firefighters stand up to the bear for you? As a leader comes great responsibility, and it has been said many times before, it is lonely at the top. But the answer to the questions is quite clear. Poke the bear! Poke the bear in the name of Justice, you have a duty to act!

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Comment by Chris Kelly on February 29, 2016 at 6:45am
Mark, thank you for taking time to not only read but understand what point I'm trying to get across. You are exactly right in asking for a solution to an issue such as the ones I bring up. This is the tip of the iceberg, and I will be presenting a multi-part blog to detail some major concerns. I don't think the people at the top that are implementing research findings are wrong. And I support of a lot of what Mr Kerber and UL/NIST are doing. Ever since I first read Paul Grimwood's work back in 06/07, I couldn't stop studying. But if we are to base any tactics or decision on Science, we must ensure the process is of the upmost integrity. We must be prepared for bias to spill over into the objectivity of the findings. It is an inevitable aspect of the human factor in research. We must be ready to be skeptics, because the harshest skeptic cannot argue with solid science. But the only way we ensure our new area of fire tactic research is successful and useful, is to demand the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and objectivity. Even if the results don't support the original hypothesis. And then, in the field, we must be slow, and methodical on how we implement these findings. I look forward to more input and will be going deeper in the subject very soon. Thank you!
Comment by Mark J. Cotter on February 28, 2016 at 12:28pm

An inspiring challenge to be a fearless champion for our beliefs!  Much as I dislike that I fall into one of your "Injustice" categories, since most of us promoting the principles of modern fire attack thought we were fighting the bear (in our view, tradition, skepticism, habit), let me carry on the metaphor and offer some advice in this regard: when facing a more powerful foe, don't just "poke" it, or it might just destroy you.  Instead, bring a proper weapon for the challenge at hand.  For the unfair chief going after your crew, support and justification from their leader (you) for the actions they are alleged to have performed might be a sufficient defensive weapon.  When taking on the political machine, calculation of your department's value (property and insurance premiums saved, for instance) and comparisons of salary and pension costs to other jurisdictions/professions could sway the battle.  If you wish to refute those of us who "try to change a paradigm", then you must provide the "missing" or "inaccurate data", or at least point out evidence of its absence, and specify where the "rules of science" and "scientific integrity" were violated.  That way, you will be adding to the conversation, and helping to improve the understanding for all participants.  (On our side, showing us what we might have missed, and, on yours, maybe giving us an opportunity to more clearly communicate our position.)  Otherwise, your post was just a passionate "poke" that will have no real effect.

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