Note: This is the second in a planned series of blogs using the "tools in the toolbox” model to explore the many facets of the profound changes inspired by ongoing fire dynamics research. As discussed in my first post in this format, I am a big fan of viewing MFA tactics as additional “options” to use for controlling fires in structures. Besides being non-threatening and accurate, it allows me to break down the various components into more manageable, blog-sized, pieces.
In order to sell (promote) something, you first need to get the attention of the customer (audience). Be it a piece of equipment, a training program, or just a concept, innovations do not spread well without some form of “marketing”. (Word of mouth may be the best form of advertising, but it certainly isn’t the fastest.) Some consumers (potential followers) are “easy sells”, at times being persuaded merely by fancy “packaging” (labels), while others are just as easily put off by the way things are presented. Some buy (adopt) based on the opinions of current users or “experts”, and others first perform their own analysis, be it formal or informal. And, of course, of the many new items constantly being introduced, some are effective and become standards, while others ultimately fail.
“Buying” something just because it’s said to be “the latest and greatest” is never a sound strategy, except for the sole intent of impressing others with similarly shallow standards. (Probably acceptable for celebrities, but not for the rest of us.) There’s always something new coming along, but you don’t always have to get (use) the latest model (process) in order to be effective. On the other hand, while “new” does not always mean “better”, it still might. The fact that someone tried to enhance an existing product or method counts for something. Determining whether they were successful in that attempt becomes the first question we must answer, the second being whether any improvement is worth the cost (effort) to obtain the product (change).
This process can be seen to be playing out in the fire service constantly. With any new tool or rule, some will be early adopters, others will wait and observe before using, and a portion will never change, at least not unless compelled by a higher authority. (This last group is not necessarily the most stubborn or backward. For example, last I heard the FDNY still doesn’t have pre-connected handlines, preferring instead to rely on firefighters’ skill and judgement in determining hose deployments, and with great success. Most other departments not only have pre-connects, but detailed and specific procedures for folding and storing each type. My own has been through several methods in just the past decade, each a little better [easier to store and deploy] than the previous.) There are often many different means for achieving the same ends. Changing from one to another requires analyzing all of the factors involved in a process, including complexity, risks, benefits, costs, training, and many, many more. It should not even be attempted without a commitment to the effort required.
Unlimited curiosity, leavened by objectivity, with a hint of skepticism, is a good recipe for continuous improvement, which should be a goal of every firefighter. New isn’t necessarily good or bad; and opinions are testimony, not evidence. Weighing the pros and cons of a new tool or rule is a continuous, and necessary, task.
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