First responders are a unique group to say the least. Most of us fit into a box when described
(Type “A” personality, Committed to safety of others, self sacrificing, brave, strong moral compass ect..) But how do others that work with us, or live with us describe us? Have you ever heard of someone and the way they are described is “they are salty, they are angry, they seem like they hate every run that comes in, they are burnt out”. Almost all of us get into this profession to help others, we love the action, the adrenaline rush of light and sirens, we love the camaraderie of the brothers and sisters around us. We are dedicated to family, and would fight to save anyone. We are often the most unprotected, underfunded, and under supported group. However, when it comes to ourselves we tend to overlook the reality that comes with the job, the drain that brings us “down”. We have the opportunity to change that narrative.
The “drain” could be from a number of factors, lack of sleep, abundance of calls, types of calls, politics, money, leadership (or lack there of), you name it. First responders tend to go through a career that is accompanied by trauma, loss, grief, and little recognition for extraordinary acts of selfless service to their community. What you do with these factors and how you manage the stresses in your career will set you apart from those that cannot or will not do the same. It is hard to say the least to effect change when the influences you have are negative, and the days you spend at the station are full of gripes, complaints, criticisms, and the attitude that “if I were in charge this is what I would do”.
I have been there in the station where there is only a complaint, about the mayor, the command staff, this policy or that, the union not doing right by its members, you name it we had a complaint for it. It was a relief to hear others having the same complaints the same feelings about these things, but what was found over time was they never stopped. They spurred into home life. They became the norm for conversation (on and off duty), and made a mentality of negativity and anger for every shift. From experience I can say this is not the ideal station life, not the ideal home life, and it begins to affect your job performance.
My advice, as cliché as it is, would be to worry not about the things you cannot change. There are things you can have an affect on, and things you cannot. Your mindset in the station and at home can help to make sure you have a career, and not some job you just put up with.
Remember why you got into this profession, we knew there was not a lot of money to be made here. We knew it would be hard work, with little recognition, but would pay back in moral, and ethical ways that cannot be described to the stock broker, or CEO. If change is what you want, or what is needed to help better not only your organization but the service as a whole then you have options that are not just complaining and “keeping things the way they have always been”. Join the union, get involved, Join the NFPA, IAFC, speak to your congressman. Do whatever you can within the boundaries of your rules and regulations of course.
Lastly pass on the salt. Complaints and gripes have their place, but there is only so much you can do by talking. Understand that your actions may be negatively affecting your members, your rookies, your family, and YOU. Watch where these conversations happen, remember gripes go up not down. Rookies don’t need the Captain griping about a new policy, saying how stupid the administration is, or how much they hate going to this call. Don’t get labeled as the salty, old, crusty member that no one wants to speak to the public, or new members will not come to for help. Do some soul searching to realize that we can all be guilty of this. We have to take lessons from the past and offer the change in legislation, local, and state policy, mindset, and opportunities for all the generations to come after us.
Don’t be "salty".