The word dash has many different meanings. It can mean to run, or travel somewhere in a hurry. It also means a small quantity of a substance or even to ruin or frustrate.
The dash I want to talk about is that which is found between two dates in time. We have all seen the dash after someone has passed away. Their birth date, a dash, and then the day of their death. When someone retires from a job or profession, their start date will be listed followed by a dash then the date they retired. That dash represents what they did while they were on this earth or at their job/profession.
I want to talk about the fire service dash and what your dash says about you when your page has turned. We all entered this job for different reasons, some began because it was a civil service test, some entered it for the schedule, some wanted in for the excitement and some just entered the job to help people and make a difference. No matter why you signed up for this profession, we all need to stop and think about the dash that will be put between our dates. The day you started this job, the dash was stamped. It doesn’t matter if you only worked one year or forty years, you have a dash. The dash represents the present, the here and now and the time between start and finish. When your time comes, and they stamp that end date on the right side of your dash, how will people remember you?
This article is geared toward your fire service dash, but the same can be said about the dash for your personal life. When you retire or answer your final alarm, how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as the firefighter who did just enough to get by or the firefighter who was never happy, or The firefighter who was lazy, or the firefighter who just wanted a paycheck? We should all want our dash to represent hard work, dedication, a love for the job and Brotherhood, just to name a few. We should all strive to let our dash leave this job better than we found it.
I think about some of the greats in our profession that have retired or have been taken from us. We still talk about those individuals today because of their dash. We pass on the skills and knowledge found in their dash. The greats who came before us left their dash as an example to be followed. They set the bar.
The nice thing about your dash is that you can choose the outcome and make changes. We have no control over the date to the right of the dash, but we have full control of the dash. Every day that we wake up and go to work, we need to remember that this is the best job in the world. We also need to remember that we have fellow firefighters, new firefighters, officers watching us to see what our dash is going to be. Some may have short dashes and others may have longer dashes, but the key is to make every second in this job count because we never know when that final date will be stamped. We need to check ourselves often and ask, Am I doing all I can do, am I being the best firefighter I can be and am I leaving this job better than I found it?
We each have control over the here and now so let’s make sure we do everything we can to preserve the tradition of the fire service, pass on the craft and let our passion shine bright. In closing, I would say that we all need to ask ourselves what our dash will say. Stay safe brothers/sisters and remember just like crops, we must cultivate our training if we want it to grow.
I want to apologize to all the Station Pride followers for the delay in my article. I have had writer’s block for awhile; I knew what I wanted to put down on paper but just couldn’t get it out. The last two weeks of teaching at our fire academy inspired me to get this article done.
I think about some of the greats in this profession; both still with us and those who are watching over us and what they have done to make this job better. I think about all the things that Lt. Andrew Fredericks did for the fire service before he was taken from us on 9/11/01. Even to this day, there are those of us trying to carry on his teachings and being “Ambassadors” for Andy. Some may not understand why we do this. It comes down to a fireman who made an enormous impact in the fire service, and we can’t let it die. I think of Chief Rick Lasky, who has inspired so many with his motivational “Pride and Ownership”. He has encouraged us to step up our pride game and take ownership in ourselves, our crews, our department and our community. There is Aaron Fields, who is creating a huge movement in the fire service with his “Nozzle Forward” class. Mr. Fields’ techniques are being taught all over the United States; from large metropolitan departments to small volunteer companies. These individuals are leaving this job better than they found it.
You don’t have to be a “big name” in the fire service to make a difference. Anyone of us can make a difference you just have to step up and be willing to take your lumps. Never giving up and continuing to push will make you stronger, and it will make a difference. I had a good friend and fellow firefighter from a neighboring department come visit me at the station some time ago. He explained how he was trying to get his department more motivated for training, trying different things and keeping an open mind. He left so excited and on fire. About two weeks later he stopped back by the station feeling totally devastated and defeated. Nobody was motivated and everything was getting shot down. We talked for awhile, and I explained to him that he can’t give up, people were watching to how he reacted to defeat. They were wanting to see if he was going to give up and roll over. Well, he didn’t give up. He called the other day to say there has been a huge turn-around in his department. The guys want to train. They are more motivated than ever, and they want to learn.
We hear firefighters complain all the time about their pay, benefits, crews, tactics, and training. Instead of sitting around complaining, step up and make a difference. One person can make a difference. It has been proven. One person can start a revolution. All it takes is the guts to step up and do it. At first, some may look at you like you’re crazy. They will tell you that things won’t change and that you are wasting your time. If you stay strong and don’t accept defeat, then good things will happen. I am sure that the first time that Aaron Fields showed guys his “Nozzle Forward” techniques they thought he was crazy and that it would never work. What about the first time Chief Lasky spoke of “Pride and Ownership?” People probably thought, “Who is this guy telling us how to have pride and take ownership?” There are so many people out there who have left this job better than they found it. It is up to each one of us to make a difference in the fire service. From the brand new firefighter to the Chief of the department. If we continue to complain and roll over, then I would hate to think of where the fire service will be in 20 years. We all have a love for this job, or we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in.
It is up to us to keep the tradition alive and keep it growing. Every day we need to think to ourselves; “What am I doing to leave the fire service better than I found it?” If you are not willing to make things better, then please do not stand in the way of those who are. Just remember that one person can make a difference in this job. Those of us who want more for this job are the sheep dogs, and we must stay vigilant. Stay safe and keep your heads up.
You will prevail.
Having been in the fire service for 18-plus years, I have always considered myself to be part of the brotherhood. But it wasn’t until a few short weeks ago that I honestly, and truly, realized how great the brotherhood really is. A few short weeks ago we were informed of a mandatory department meeting. In the meeting we learned that the Fire Department that I work for would be disbanded in February and all of us would be laid off.
Of course, this came as a shock to all of us. We had no warning of this and we were given no reason for the decision. Once we learned of this we were all distraught. Most of us have families we support. We are left to wonder why and how this could happen?
I have to say that social media can be a great tool in the fire service. The show of support from fellow brothers/sisters from across the county was amazing. I had brothers from across the county sending me messages and calling me asking if there was anything they could do to help. A brother from the east coast offered to collect donations for us if we needed help. This really opened my eyes to the true brotherhood and family of the fire service. The support continued just this week as my wife and I attended Firehouse World in San Diego. I had fellow brothers approach me all week and offer support and help in any way they could.
Now back to the topic, there is no gray-area in the brotherhood. You are either in or out. There are no fence riders in the brotherhood. If you get it and live it, then you’re in and if you don’t, then you’re out. The brotherhood is all about helping your fellow brother/sister out, both in the good times and bad.
I hear the term brotherhood thrown around a lot, and it makes me wonder do people really understand what it means? When I use the term the brotherhood it encompasses both brothers and sisters. Some things that come to mind when I think about this topic is; when you need helping moving, 10-15 fellow brothers show up outside your house with coffee and donuts ready to help. When a loved one is sick or injured, a handful of brother’s show up to help mow the lawn or paint your house. Even the simple things like showing up early to shift so the out going crew can get home to their families a little sooner or just the simple phone call or text to check in and say hi.
If you are truly committed to the brotherhood then you will do things that aren’t always easy nor fit into your schedule. It could be taking a trade for someone so they could attend their child’s soccer game or it could be the fellow brother/sister who doesn’t have kids that steps up to work for you on Christmas so you can spend it with your family and kids. If you are not willing to do things for the better good of your fellow brother/sister then there is no room for you in the brotherhood. The fire service is unlike any other profession in the world and it doesn’t matter it you’re a career firefighter or a volunteer. We all have the same passion and desire.
I will apologize now if this article was a grenade thrown into the room but I hope people will talk about this and take a good hard look at themselves and ask, am I in or am I out. If you are in then welcome to the family. If you are out, then maybe someday you will join us, but please do not be a fence rider.
A good definition of the brotherhood states “an association, society, or community of people linked by a common interest, religion, or trade”. I have heard the saying “If I have to explain it then you wouldn’t understand”, I think that is so fitting and true of the brotherhood and the fire service. We can’t let the brotherhood die. We must keep the passion burning bright and pass the torch to the new generation. Brotherhood is the unspoken – WE GOT YOUR BACK.
B – Bonds created that will last a lifetime
R – Rejuvenate each other
O – Offer to help
T – True to each other
H – Humble yourself
E – Eager to help
R – Respect each other
H – Honesty toward each other
O – Openness towards each other
O – Overcome things together
D – Dedicated to fellow brothers/sister and the fire service
When people think about the term 1%er (one percent-er) they usually think it’s something negative. The 1% is often thought of as outlaws and law breakers. In the fire service I would say the 1% is a good thing.
To me, the 1%er is a Firefighter, Engineer or Captain who is all-in and does the right thing even when it’s not the popular thing. The 1%er is the person who has pride, honor and integrity.
When the economy was good, fire departments would send personnel to classes on the department dime in hopes they would return and pass on the knowledge learned. With the economic decline and with decreased budgets that type of training funding has stopped. So with more firefighters having to foot-the-bill for additional training from outside the department there has been a major backslide in people taking classes, except for one group, the 1%er’s. This is the group that will go out and take classes to better themselves, their crew and their department. The 1%er’s are often looked down on, made fun of and even harassed sometimes. Does this happen because the non 1%er’s or the 99% are jealous? Do they just not get it? If it’s because they don’t get it, then it’s our responsibility to make sure they do get it and pass on the passion. If they are jealous, then hopefully someday they will step up and join us.
I have attended and instructed a lot of classes and it never fails that at least once during the class I will hear, “well my department made me come” or “I don’t want to be here but the department said I had to come”. These people are not part of the 1%, they are the exact opposite. These are the ones who will harass you for taking a nozzle/hose class, tech rescue class, a forcible entry class, etc. These are also the ones who will ask, “do I get a cert from the class” and if the answer is no then their response is “I am not going if I don’t get a cert”. These are the individuals that I call the certification firefighter. Now don’t get me wrong, certifications are important and needed in the fire service but if you are not willing to take a non-cert class to help better yourself, your crew, and department then maybe you should reevaluate your profession. Is it always easy to spend your own hard earned money to get out there and learn, no it’s not, but, you never know when you’ll learn a skill that could make all the difference.
The 1%er is all about pride, honor and integrity. I am sure this article will stir some discussion both good and bad, and hopefully everyone who reads this will take a look at themselves and evaluate if they are a 1%er or not. If you are a 1%er then keep doing what you are doing it will make a difference and if you are not then please don’t criticize those who are.
One thing that everyone in the fire service needs is pride, and the best part is… it’s free and it’s inside everyone. Some take pride in their wealth, success, rank, etc. Have you ever walked into a firehouse and seen bare walls and ask yourself why there are no pictures oranything showing the history of the department. There’s a good chance that there is a lack of pride in that station. It is also a slight possibility that the administration or powers that be don’t want things on the walls but I highly doubt it. Pride is all about putting pictures on the wall, whether it is pictures of incidents, events, pictures of personnel or inspirational posters. Another great idea is hanging old department equipment on the walls, find an old pike pole, clean it up, make it look good, and hang it up. Find an old hydrant from your district, paint it up and display it in the corner. If your firehouse has bare walls ask if you can do some research and find some meaningful things to hang on the wall. Take pictures of the crews after calls, trainings and community events.
As firefighters we need to take pride in the job, our equipment, our department and ourselves. If you don’t care what your duty boots look like then I can guarantee that the rest of your uniform reflects your boots. If you don’t take pride in yourself then I bet your apparatus is dirty and not taken care of very welleither. We need to take pride in every aspect of our job even if it doesn’t feel important. We need to take pride in our tools, keep them clean and take care of them. You might not have the newest and greatest equipment, but deal with what you have andtake pride in it. Sharpen your tools, clean the handles and inspect them on a daily basis. Take pride in your hose loads, no matter the time of day or night, rain or shine make sure to rack your lines with pride. If you load your lines sloppy then they will pull sloppy. When it’s time to go to work the last thing you want is a pile of tangled mess in the front lawn. Take pride in your equipment; clean the apparatus at the start and end of shift even if you didn’t turn a wheel. That piece of apparatus is expensive and the way it looks is a direct reflection of your department. Have pride in your station and never bad-mouth your department. Remember that someone in your city, district or town saw something in you and hire you. So take pride and be proud of that.
Pride is contagious. I have seen it happen. I guarantee if you polish your boots before the start of each shift then others will follow suit. If you take care of the equipment and tools others will also. Set an example and see what happens. If you have pride and show it then others around you will want to do the same. If someone doesn’t want to show pride then that’s on him or her, just keep doing what you know is right and never compromise your integrity. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer or a career firefighter you should have pride.
P – Professional (Be professional no matter if you are a volunteer or career)
R – Respect (Respect the senior person, yourself, the job, your equipment and your department)
I – Integrity (If you don’t have integrity then you have nothing)
D – Dedication (Be dedicated the job and love it)
E – Example (Be an example to others and your pride will catch on)
Stay safe brothers and sisters. Get your Pride on and be an example to everyone around you.