Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Around Here

By Mark vonAppen

We had a great auto extrication drill the other night and we did it all by ourselves.  Nobody asked permission, we simply called a tow company and had a few cars delivered.  As we passed the hat around the table to help defer some of the $200 out-of-pocket cost to the firefighter who set up the drill I thought; who determines our safety levels; a statistician who sits in a cubicle in cool disconnect and crunches numbers, weighing the cost of anonymous human life versus the cost of training or a safety measure?  Who determines what is an acceptable level of risk?

The number of times that I have donned my mourning badge and lowered the colors at the firehouse has me thinking, and it has me angry.

Do we need to ask permission to be experts in our field?  Not around here.

Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth. Our professional plan - when the dollars flowed freely and operations mattered - used to include slack in the system to absorb the unforeseen and unthinkable.  As we forge ahead with creative staffing models, measurables, resume building, and ladder climbing, the slack has been removed and the entire system is stretched tight.  Do we have a plan for a fight gone bad?  At the company level we have to because often the organization does not.  We have to create our own plan because no one else will.  Is operating without a plan and hoping things will work out for the best any way to do business?  Not around here.  We won't accept average and we will not ask for permission to do as we see fit to carve time from our day to make ourselves better and safer.
"Around here we do it on our own together."
Aggressive, educated, proactive firefighting that starts with the mindset that every structure is occupied and that we will extend risk (our lives) to effect the rescue of our neighbors is the foundation of a movement to put the fight back in firefighter and bring strong leadership back to the fireground and firehouse.  We must seek out our own education and create our own motivation because help is not on the way.  Our best insurance policy is a strong base of education and the ability to practically apply knowledge to the appropriate situation.  We have to be functionally intelligent and possess the ability to think on our feet.  Cuts to training budgets can no longer be an excuse.  We have to invest in ourselves.  In order to win the fight, we have to be in the fight.  Being in the fight means doing it on your own and leading from everywhere.

Do we want to go home at the end of our shift?  Yes.

Are we afraid to do our job?  Not around here.  We train hard in order to fight smart.  Will we let office dwellers pushing statistics determine how we fight?  Not around here.  We won't sit around and wait for greatness to arrive, around here we go get it.  Around here we believe in each other.  Around here we set the bar high and we hold each other accountable to that standard.  

Around here we do it on our own together.


  1. After reading this post , I'm a little sad,That's not how it is around here. Today I wrote an open letter to the membership about the need to come to training meetings. I also wrote letters telling two "members " they can no longer be on the dept. due to NO training what so ever. Both have been on for eight years.
    I was appointed Chief a little more than a year ago and changing the hearts and minds from 1970 to present day is alot tougher than i thought. I have had a few "old" guys retire because they, "didn't like the direction i was taking the dept.". "that's not the way we've done it" and "we are just volunteers...", are two sayings I am getting very tired of hearing! vollie or not fire won't discriminate. Are they satisfied by just saving the basement? Not me. Now just to clarify we average 40 runs a year. Am I over zealous? Do I have to high an expectation for my dept? I do have about four guys that share my way of thinking , it's the other twenty three I am struggling with. Thanks for letting me vent.

  2. I couldn't agree with you busted last week by some admin types for performing water rescue training. Somebody who new somebody called the front office because we were out "surfing". Did they come down to the beach to ask us what we were doing? Did the brass call and ask? No and no. We were using rescue boards, cans, tubes and actually assisted someone toward the end of training that got stuck in a rip. Now we are banned pending review. Nice. Does it stop us from responding...nope. Just more tape and bs.
    Thanks for the quality posts.

    1. I understand. My email privileges have been revoked at my place of business. When I was talked to about sending out training methods that didn't jibe exactly with IFSTA I was told that all training correspondence (from me) must go through a rigorous screening process before being sent out. I asked my boss, "What is everyone so afraid of?"

      Keep going and doing what you're doing. We operate in a world where fear and knee-jerk reactions are the norm, not an expectation that our people are doing the right thing. You're doing the right thing.