So I just read an article…
To sum it up, five monkeys are put in a cage containing a banana that could only be reached by a ladder. Every time the monkeys tried to climb the ladder, they got sprayed with water. The monkeys got to the point that they beat the shit out of any monkey that tried to climb the ladder to get the banana. They then started switching monkeys that were not sprayed. The monkeys beat the shit out of the new guy trying to climb the ladder. They eventually replaced all of the monkeys. Now none of these monkeys had been sprayed, yet, they continued to kick that monkey’s ass that tried to climb the ladder and get the banana.
“200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress”.
That’s a thing we’ve all heard around the station. But think of it, we do this. As an academy instructor, I remember preaching about pushing fire a few years back because that’s how we were always taught. We now know that water puts out fire; it doesn’t push it. Amazing how something so simple can become a tradition. This is why we need to support our new people to go out, learn more, challenge us to think, and create their own future in the fire service. Yes, we need to mentor the same way we were, but we also need to listen to their questions. We need to stay current on our training. Most important, we need to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters to learn how they perform the same tasks.
Take pride in where you came from! Support your tradition; don’t rely on it. Anyone can see our fires have changed when legacy construction is compared to modern. We as firefighters also need to change and adapt. We need to stop attacking that monkey climbing the ladder just because, “That’s how we do it.”
Now go out there climb your own ladder and grab that damn banana! (Now waiting on the banana-grabbing jokes)
For a long time, I have argued against the money that professional sports players make. Although I haven’t changed my mind that they are overpaid, I had to ask myself some questions before I joined the many around my department about crying because I’m underpaid. And maybe that not what this is about…It’s about a professional being a damn professional.
I first started thinking about training. How often are my guys training? Are we cutting corners that could affect us on game day? What are we training?
So first off is frequency. Every day, every call is preparing us for the Super Bowl. There will be that call in your life that you will think back to things that worked and were done right on the training ground. So if we are at work, we should be training from the bottom to the top. If you are on the fire ground with me, I expect that you have a working knowledge on your pack. I expect you to remember where the nearest exit is. I expect you are in good enough physical condition to get my ass out if shit hits the fan. I realize one day, one of these guys may have my life in their hands. Now if that’s not enough, one day I may have to be the one that makes decisions that will affect if one of them goes home or not!…OH shit! Time to train!
Cutting corners in training? You’ve never done it right? When we had a new chief that came in and made us accountable a set number of hours of training each month, I saw a guy do anything possible to get these hours (as long as they didn’t have to train). If you drive to the store for dinner, don’t mark down 2 hours of DO training. Don’t watch Backdraft and mark down training. I am guilty too, I have done many drills sitting at the dinner table. The dinner table is a great place to learn, but who doesn’t agree that we can get more out of getting our ass out of the chair and onto the training grounds? Do you think John Elway just chalk boarded everything?
Speaking of the Broncos, do you ever see the other team on the sidelines sucking down oxygen? I’ve been told they come down early and acclimate to the elevation. If they went there a month early, I bet they wouldn’t be huffing those “O’s”. Does it make sense to do that?…no.
What are you training on? I am from a small department, which means I could be on the engine, bus, tower, rescue, or brush truck. Just like any firefighter, I have to be versatile. I may cause some pain saying this but train on the important things. Train on the things you KNOW that you will see. We have an agriculture air spraying service. I have been in this department for 13 years and have not run one crash. In the last two months, we have made an initial attack on three structure fires. What do you think we should train? The answer is, of course, both. I believe that it’s completely asinine to train over and over on shit you may never see and overlook the stuff you see every day. Do you think Barry Bonds skipped a batting practice, even though it was the SAME thing every time? Practice what you know you will see!
Remember that the goal of training is a self-improvement, not for just yourself, but your shift, your department, and your community. Our goal should follow that of any pro player; we should know that Sunday is coming, if we are ready or not. The only difference between them and us is that someone’s life may be on the line.
My Brothers…. I try to give you something every shift I work. This week I’ve been thinking about MY fire service…. Yeah, it’s mine. I’ve given 15 years of blood, sweat, tears to this great service. It isn’t a job; it isn’t a career. It is who you are; it’s what you think about on your days off. I spend my four days waiting to get back to the station with my friends.
This field is so much more than any other job. There is a place for all of us. You can find your path in any of the multiple services we provide. We provide help. That is the simplest breakdown of what we do. Hazmat, fire, rescue, and EMS; someone has called 911 because the situation is out of their control. You don’t have to love it all, just show me the passion for it.
My fire service is passionate. We don’t have to be dedicated to the same specialty areas, however, as a group, we can answer any call. We speak with excitement about the fire service. We immerse ourselves into our craft. If you are here just to take selfies and tell the girls you’re a fireman, you have failed.
My fire service is prepared. A wise man once said, “We save a life every shift.” Does that mean I am the baddest mother you’ve met, and I happen to work at the busiest station known to man?… No. But every training I perform is what I will fall back on to the day that I need to make that save. We pull lines; we throw ladders; we search. If you don’t give a shit about training, you have failed.
My fire service is strong. Do I work with powerlifting record holders?.. Well yes, but our strength is simpler than that. It’s a simple fact that if I go down inside, I have no question that my guys have the physical ability to get my ass out. If this isn’t the case either, you’re too fat or your crew is too weak. If so, you have failed.
My fire service is a brotherhood. We spend time together. We are defined not as individuals but as a group. On duty, we eat together, train together, spend downtime together. Off duty, we are in constant contact. We know what is going on in each other’s personal lives. If you only are a “shift” when you are at work and don’t have contact with your crew until you come back to the station, you have failed.
If you haven’t failed, thank you. YOU are MY fire service. I hope to meet you sometime in the future. I call you my brothers.
If you have failed, leave. You are a poser in my fire service. These things can’t be taught, and honestly, we will find you sooner than you think. It is unfair that you are filling a position without passion. As you leave, I will give you a plastic helmet, a temporary tattoo, and sticker badge so that you can still take those selfies.