The Blame Game
The fire service is an occupation that can literally at times dictate life or death. Structure fires, extrications, medicals as well as a whole host of other emergencies that place us dead center in the middle of stressful situations. Over time it’s human nature that we become numb or to think the calls in which we respond are no longer taxing. This may be how we view our daily obligations but no matter the size, demographics, or call volume within our respective organizations, we are all without a doubt exposed to these exasperating situation. With the gravity of the alarms we respond to, we somehow find the strength to stay calm, keep our cool, and not get too excited. This amazes me because all the while, we are guiding a steady hand when someone is dying but we are absolutely spazzing out over some of the dumbest things imaginable back within the four walls of the firehouse.
Most every fire house throughout our county is guilty of the following in some way, shape or form: “What the hell, the tools look like crap. No one’s cleaned them in days.” or “They had a car fire last night and didn’t even bother to clean the hose.” or “The trash wasn’t taken out and the dishwasher never got emptied” or “The other three shifts don’t do jack around here. We are the only ones who clean this firehouse and take care of the rig.” Does this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. I call it “The Blame Game”. If the tools didn’t get cleaned, something wasn’t properly packed, or a task wasn’t completed, we inevitably find it necessary to put the blame on someone else. Why is this? Why are we so compelled to point the finger at a single person, company, or shift when something isn’t 100%. Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Does it make us feel like better firemen? I think the answer is without a doubt no. The only thing placing blame on other firefighters does is destroy morale within our respective fire houses. Over time, it slowly tears at the fabric of our camaraderie and negatively impacts our daily lives. After the blame game has begun, it’s inevitable that guys/girls are going to take it personally. Firefighters start arguing because someone forgot to restock the medical bag. Chauffeur’s get mad because the previous driver didn’t “top of the fuel”. Line officers get stand-offish because the fire prevention/public education didn’t get done. Plain and simple it’s not good for the membership, the house, the department, and most importantly for the city you are protecting.
I remember being a brand new volunteer in my Hometown of Branford, CT back in 1999. Being a new firefighter I absorbed everything. To this day I remember clear as day things that were said to me within that impressionable point of my career. Deputy Chief, then firefighter, Timmy Judd of the Branford Fire Dept. said, “Kid, if you see something that isn’t right, don’t complain about it. Do the right thing, fix the problem, and move on to your next task.” He also went on to say, “When all else fails just make sure you do the right thing. If guys just did the right thing and stopped the whining and complaining everything would go so much smoother.” Being so new in the fire service this struck a chord and has stayed with me for the past nineteen years. It’s simple, after identifying something that isn’t right, instead of waking abound your fire house pointing the finger and starting up yet another session of the blame game, quietly identify what’s wrong, do the right thing, and fix it by turning the wrong into a right.
Why do we constantly insist on placing the blame on someone when something has gone array? I believe a big part of the issue is that we simply have to much time on our hands. Let’s face it, except for a few extraordinarily busy companies scattered throughout our country, many of us could go quite a while without “catching a job”. Lack of fires brews boredom, boredom brews restlessness, restlessness brews anger, until finally we start blaming other members for small issues which in the end creates a recipe for bad morale. I don’t care who you are, we all miss things. I check my truck top to bottom at the start of every tour. Do you think I still miss things, you bet I do. Like Chief Judd said, “Just do the right thing”. If you recognize the 2 ½ gallon water can’s gauge is a little low, then put some air in it. If you see the SCBA needs to be cleaned from a fire the crew had the night before, clean it. Stop playing the blame game and simply start doing the right thing. Other members within your house will eventually notice what your doing, catch on themselves, and in the end your house will be the overall beneficiary of your doing the right thing.
Adam J. Hansen