Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How the Dominos Fall

I just want to take a moment to share an experience with you. I normally post positive experiences or situations that went well.  This one is different. Although there was not a bad outcome, the call itself went poorly, mostly due to my lack of focus.

I am the first to preach tactical proficiency and the first to tell people that training is the most important task, outside of calls, that we can do while at work.  Let me be the first, now, to share with you how things can go bad from the dispatch because of a lack of focus.  Let me share and hopefully you will learn from my mistakes

During a recent rotation we were in our spare pumper. I am normally on a quint and it is in the shop, so we are running out of our spare pumper.  Since we are in the spare, our dispatch has a habit of not dispatching us to our own still area because we don't have the ladder. Go figure, right?

Well, on this day we are preparing dinner and the district tones drop for a commercial first alarm, smoke coming from the basement.  At first I didn't think much of it.  Then, I was thinking that the address sounded like an apartment complex in my still area.  Sure enough, they did not dispatch us to our own call.

Now we're already behind the 8 ball.  I rounded up the company and we started bunking out.  We are in a hurry and I am feeling  a little anxious.  As we pull out, one of our compartment doors is open and we have to stop to shut it.  Not typical!  But, you can start to see how things start to go bad before you ever get there.  And, it can happen to the best of us, and quite honestly, I was extremely embarrassed afterwards.

As we were responding our computer was not working and our pager did not activate because we were not on the initial dispatch.  We got the address and proceeded.  As we entered the complex we knew that the building fronted one street and backed another and access could be made from either road.  Some people standing on the road directed us in: to the wrong side of the building!  I normally trust my instincts and this time I did not and made things even worse.

My size up was rushed and incomplete and I left the truck without my normal tool selection of  New York hook, but I did take the TIC.  It was going to be a long stretch once we found the correct unit.

As it was, maintenance was already on the scene repairing the burned out blower motor on the unit's AC.  No fire, no hazards and luckily, it ended my lack of focus.

These were all of my decisions and they were not good ones. I was angry with myself as someone who trains and studies our profession.  I was also embarrassed that I made such elementary mistakes.

I share this show how easy it can be to screw up.  Had we had a fire I would like to think that I would have hit the reset button, but who really knows.  I would like to think I would have reverted back to my training when it really mattered.  

The point is this, stay vigilant, train and train some more.  Discuss you short comings and fix them. We are all going to have bad days and we need to limit them as much as possible.

I can assure you that this call will stick with me longer than the ones that went well; I want to make sure I never respond at a call this way again.  It happens fast and without notice.  Be tactically patient and train hard.

Thanks and learn from others.


Monday, June 17, 2013

I Will Not Get Out of Your Way

We have all worked with those that just don't care, we discussed it in an earlier post.

We exhaust ourselves to make the fire service, our fellow firefighters and us better and safer by training and mastering our craft.

We are asked "why" continually and it is easy to think about giving up.  It would just be so easy to ensure that I know what I'm doing and leave you to your own mediocrity.

I know you just want to push me and those like me aside, for us to just get out of your way.

Well, I, and those like me, will not move.  We will not get out of our way.  We will not quit.  This is to those that are okay with being "okay" at this job.  This is to those officers that wont take a stand against the loud, vocal minority that are just "okay" at this job.  This is to those that think they know everything about fighting fire but refuse to practice their craft.

We will not get out of your way.

You might be my partner at the fire that things go bad at and I want to make it home; I wont get out of your way.

You might be my last chance for survival when I call the Mayday; I wont get out of your way.

You might be the firefighter arrives when my family has a crisis and you need to be at the top of your game; I wont get out of your way.

You might be the incident commander seeing conditions deteriorate from the exterior as I am operating on the interior unaware; I wont get out of your way.

For every firefighter and officer out there trying to make a difference, no matter what road block they throw up, Do not get out of their way.

Keep plugging along and take your lumps, just don't get out of their way.

Monday, June 10, 2013

This is NOT Your Side Job!

So, you want to sell real estate?  You want to pour concrete?  You want to be the next top seller in a multilevel marketing scheme?  You want to build houses? You want to sell insurance? Well, then go do it and get out of my fire serivce!

This is my rant!

I have no issue with you doing whatever you want to do on the side. I don't care what you do on your days off.  I even don't mind if you need to do some work during YOUR down time at work so long as it doesn't encumber your efforts to be a masterful firefighter so that YOUR fellow team members can return to station safely because YOUR proficient.

If you can't do that............GET OUT!

I have no issue with you not being a "Fire Nerd." I encourage you to have a life outside of the fire service, but when your here, give me all I you've got because my wife and kids depend on it.

Don't ASSume you know it all because you have been in the serivce for xx number of years.  It makes an ASS out of you, not me.

When it's time to drill don't tell me that firefighting just isn't that hard; it can be.  It just goes to show you have no clue.

So, when you walk in the door, you have a choice; you can be a firefighter that cares about those that serve with you or you can be an employee that wants the paycheck, benefits, days off and the ability to wear the cool t-shirts but who will let down the person's family next to you because you just..........don't..........CARE!

What do you choose?

That's all

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Road Map: Give Some Direction

As the company officer we have an obligation to ensure that our crew stays safe. Wearing seatbelts, traffic vests, headsets on the apparatus and making sure that our PPE is worn appropriately are all important, no doubt.  But, imagine being given a map with no starting point and no idea where you are and being told to get to a destination. It would be almost impossible because we have no starting point, we have no indication of where we are or which direction to even start in.

This is happening to our firefighters everywhere. Company officers are not spending enough time providing a starting point and direction to our new firefighters.  For that matter, even to the seasoned guys.  What this really boils down to is are we giving our crews, the people that depend on us for leadership and direction all of the information and tools that they need to navigate the dangers that we may face on a daily basis?

Are we creating habits that will create safe and proficient practices on the fireground? Are we stating our expectations and providing solid reasons why so that there is understanding, not just sheep being prodded by a staff?  Have we trained and invested in our people to build trust and commitment so that when we are not on duty that day, they still do it right?

These are things to ponder the next time you are contemplating what your going do on the next duty day.  Build strong habits by drilling regularly. Build trust by actively listening and communicating effectively your expectations, and stand by them.  Cut the path to effective and proficient firefighting by mastering the basics and being engaged in the fire service and practicing our craft.  Doing and accomplishing these things will allow you and your crew to know that the little things are being taken care of.

Be well and lead from the front. If you don't have anybody behind you, your doing it wrong!