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The Man in the Box

Our firehouse quartered a two piece engine company, a truck company with a senior aerial and a Tactical Squad, which was designated as a compliment to firefighting staffing with the additional specialty of water rescue. There were fifteen of us on duty every day and each one of us knew what our job was before the bell rang.

There was no question about our tactical responsibilities left floating around in dreamland and causing confusion, based upon dispatch or based upon arrival sequence.

This was important to me because it resulted in an efficient fireground operation with aggressive searches and quick extinguishment. Everyone hustled, companies stayed in their tactical lanes, we all worked together in teams until we all stopped working and our on scene decorum and behavior reflected the fact that we had been there before.

The great advantage of working in such an environment was that we often transferred across the floor, and less frequently to other firehouses. If a young person paid attention, the learning opportunities were limitless.

The plectron communications system would make static noises and someone would always say “the box is open” and everyone moved quickly to their rig. The dispatch message was always repeated twice, but we were on the street and rolling after hearing the address on the apparatus radio once.

Yes, it’s true that I tried to make sure that Thomas Herman and the Squad followed me to fires, in spite of his best efforts to get out first. I am glad that I had the opportunity to work during some of what people like to call the busy years.

One day in the day room, I remember Jim Riley jumping up and running to the coffee counter. He shoved another Fireman with his left arm while pulling the plug of our industrial toaster with his right hand. Jim Riley had seen the other fellow insert a butter knife into the toaster to retrieve a piece of toast.

 Here we were with a UL approved toaster, in a busy firehouse, and yet somehow the most important part of the message was not taught, taught too fast, taught over, misplaced, missed by the student or misunderstood.

 I certainly worry today about our young encapsulated society of young people who, by no fault of their own, are confused about the difference between buttered toast with jelly and a half warmed waffle.

How do we teach the Honda Accord generation to safely drive and operate apparatus that I believe has become too expensive, too complicated and far too large? Do young people truly understand what a Truck Company and an Engine Company do and why? Have they been taught the importance of the vent, what it looks like and what it feels like, from both the Truck and Engine perspectives? What are horizontal and vertical ventilation and what are the advantages of both? Why do I frequently still see people camping out on the roof, after the successful vent? When did talking to a fire to make it go out become a strategy? How complicated do portable radios really need to be and what is the best practice formula and percentage that we teach for talking on a radio vs. listening to a radio? Where do we place the importance of victims who are dying to meet us and why do we keep finding them in the flow path? Where is the tenable vs. untenable scale that we are supposed to use and when did we forget to teach what No Vacancy means on the fireground?

What does your acquired structure program look like and do you have an acquired experience and knowledge program to accompany it? What relationship is fostered between the old and the new department members to get them together and talk about things over coffee?  Are their hundreds of years of combined experiences pertinent to the discussion of today or are they seen and treated as past tense, a shiny plaque or a cheap watch?

Our daily industry media reveals the dangerous results for departments who beget, beget and beget again poor leadership. The mission is lost and the message becomes burned toast.

Yes, it is my emergency.

The man in the box is my man and it matters not whether his is a cardboard box.

Transparent paint? Not now boss, the house is on fire.

Who is teaching them?

I did not take art, I played team sports.

“I don’t know where we are going, but we are sure making good time.”

Thanks for reading, caring and sharing.

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

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