Fear is a lousy motivator for persons who have joined an organization that routinely confronts danger, especially when, for some, that danger was itself a motivator to join. Now, I am not suggesting that firefighters care less about themselves than your average citizen; just that they generally put the wellbeing of others ahead of themselves. This helps them face hazards that, without such a focus, would cause your average human to turn - if not run - away. Of course, we are also trained and equipped to survive deadly environments while engaging our unique skill set, surviving and overcoming situations that would be lethal and hopeless for anyone not equally prepared.
Participating in this profession should, therefore, render us immune from both threats or challenges that are premised on fear. That is, no one should be trying to scare firefighters in order to change their behavior, or accusing those willing to change of being scared. (Not that there isn’t plenty to be afraid of in this endeavor, both known and unknown, but education based on that approach is doomed to failure due to our general resistance to that emotion.). Why, then, do critics of the MFA approach, or any other modification of “tried and true” tactics, use the arguments that proponents are attempting to use such methods of persuasion, or have themselves succumbed to such thoughts?
For instance, we advocates for change are accused of manipulating or misstating LODD statistics to promote our position, with the counter (and accurate) argument being that actual fireground deaths are steadily declining. Other critics will point out the lack of evidence of high numbers of fatalities from such traditional activities as interior attacks and roof ventilation. The only problem with this line of attack is that MFA tactics (for the sake of this discussion, to include external streams and delayed ventilation) are not “just” safer, but, in many cases, more effective and efficient.
Dismissing the “scaredy-cat” argument/insult is similarly straightforward, as those who modify their methods based on research are cut from the same cloth as the rest of us, so fear is the least likely motivator. (If anything, earlier adopters demonstrate even more fearlessness. Plus, more than a few departments implement these improvements despite significant resistance from members who equate even calculated delays as unconscionable reluctance.) Again, the benefits of MFA are not only - or even primarily - safety, but also speed and ease of implementation, two goals anyone in this profession should be striving for.
It has been my experience that most firefighters embody selflessness, strive for competency, and, by the act of enlisting, have proven at least the intention of bravery. Certainly, most of us could be kinder, smarter, and tougher, but we firefighters are, for the most part, above average in these regards, at least in the context of our unique work setting, and therefore undeserving of assumptions to the contrary. The arguments for changing out tactics are not premised on our current methods being too dangerous, but on the fact that the new approaches, which are based on the findings of carefully-designed research projects, are better. We aren’t trying to scare you, and we’re no more fearful than anyone else who has answered the call to service.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org