Below is the first speech I ever gave. I was asked by Chief Rodney Twyman to be the guest speaker at the Ridgley Volunteer Fire Dept. in WVA:
Good evening. My name is David Polikoff and I am extremely honored to be here. I am Battalion Chief in Montgomery County Maryland, life member at Kentland Volunteer Fire Department in PG County Maryland, and volunteer at Sykesville Fire Department in Carroll County Maryland. I am also an instructor with Capitol Fire Training. I was surprised and humbled when Chief Twyman asked me to be the guest speaker at your banquet. I am very happy to know that he thought of me after the other nine people could not do it. At least I was in the top 10.
I have never been a guest speaker before, most of the time when I talk with the guys from Capitol Fire they usually walk away shaking their heads. I asked Rodney what do you want me to talk about and he said the fire service. I said well that I can do. As firefighters how many fire service problems have we solved at a bar over drinks? With the apple pie you guys have for me I expect to solve all the fire service’s problems tonight!
With all joking aside, when someone calls 911 what do we do? We respond to someone’s problem, and we solve it, plain and simple. We solve problems no matter how big or small. I want to tell you a quick story. Last May I was here teaching a class. Rodney and I were out in the ball field next to the school across from the fire house. My guys were setting up for a class and I was talking to Rodney. We both noticed a girl hitting a softball to her little brother. The boy was about 5 or 6. Rodney and I both said that girl is going to hit her brother with a line drive. No sooner did those words leave our mouths did it happen. He got hit real hard. So what did we do? We ran over to the boy and checked him out. We talked to mother to see if she wanted an ambulance to take him to the hospital. She refused. What did Rodney and I do? We acted, it was instinct. We are firefighters no matter what our rank is and we react to other’s problems and try to help.
Now just to let you know Rodney did say he was going to count that as an ambulance call for himself.
This job is not for everyone - it is a true calling. We are all here because we love the thrill of doing things others can’t or won’t. We live for the pager to go off or the house siren to blow. Others just don’t get it and they never will. It is impossible to explain it to someone who is not in the Brotherhood. That is what it is, a true Brotherhood. We put our lives on the line every day for people we don’t know, who most likely won’t thank us and most of the time ignore us, except on September 11th.
Every one of us firefighters sit at home or in the station waiting for something bad to happen so we can go and fix it. I used to say I hope we catch a house fire today, or I hope we run a pin job, or I hope I run an apartment fire today. To the public that is a horrible thought, but to a firefighter it is what we want to do. Now as a Chief I don’t say I hope we burn up someone’s house or apartment, I now say “if something is on fire I want to be there”.
I had the pleasure of talking to a fighter pilot who said he trains extensively on how to shoot down enemy planes and fly bombing runs. He said that is his job and he loves his job. To translate he likes to shoot down planes and tear up stuff on the ground. Just like us we train how to put out fires and cut up cars. We want to put our skills to use.
Guys our job is always changing and we have to update our skills to keep up with the times. Training is the key. You must train all the time to keep your skills sharp. We do not fight fires like we did 50 years ago 30 years ago 20 years ago 10 years ago. It is not that the fire changes, it is the box it comes in. Frank Brannigan said the building is your enemy, know your enemy and that statement is still true. Buildings are built quickly and with less bulk. That means they will burn quicker and fail faster. We see things in buildings today and sometimes can’t be sure what it is. Hell I saw my first 2 story single wide behind your fire house last year!
For the sake of your brothers and your family train and be safe so you can come home.
In conclusion I leave you some parting thoughts.
• Continue to learn this job - it is always changing and if you let your guard down you will get hurt.
• If you have knowledge share it with others.
• Treat others how you would want them to treat one of your family members.
• Get out the door quick, or your fire will be my fire. The fire service is the only job where others don’t mind doing your work.
• Always show a calm exterior no matter what you’re feeling on the inside. Your
demeanor can drive an incident in a positive or negative direction.
• Respect you fellow brothers and sisters.
• Take care of your body and mind.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help.
• Show up ready to do your job.
• Take care of your crew.
• Admit when you’re wrong or you have made a mistake and then learn from it.
• Different is not wrong it is just different.
• And above all love and enjoy your family. They are your support system.