This week I am going to look at a word that has tremendous impact on the fire service today and that is the word tradition.
Who really cares what I say, let’s take a look at Webster and see what is said about this week’s term.
Tradition – 1.) Transmittal of elements of a culture from one generation to another, especially by oral communication. 2.) A set of customs and usage’s transmitted from one generation to another and viewed as a coherent body of precedents influencing the present. 3.) A time honored practice.
Wow ! Read that one over again and see if that begins to explain anything in your mind! Think about our training activities, or station activities, our radio procedures, and maybe even our death and injury statistics.
Think for just a minute about a couple of simple issues in definition 1 about oral communication and our training practices and you might get a chuckle or two.
OK, so have you heard the firehouse talk that goes something like “…and John is a good firefighter because he would never leave you in a building, and if someone ever leaves me in a building I will…”. I have had people leave me in a building before. It does not happen every week and simply has become the legend and story we like to think about when we determine the measure and meddle of a “good firefighter”. If as many people left as times this story was told we would be standing amid rubble in this country. Put your macho in your pocket so you have something else to play with, besides your change, while your are in there.
Why is salvage always taught with overhaul? We always say that in one sentence. What the hell is that about? Oh I know ’cause that is the way it always has been taught.
How come every new recruit can identify all of the signs of a backdraft but is more challenged when asked about the signs of a flashover? He will see a flashover many more times than he is likely to see a backdraft. I am not suggesting that we ignore it, we just change emphasis.
We cut a 4 x 4 vent hole in a residential fire and an 8 x 8 hole on a commercial. Please send me an email if you have ever seen either of these occur because I got to tell you that in 30 years + I have yet to see either…..! Cut the biggest hole you can safely, with the air supply you have…that should be the rule.
These are just a couple of firehouse things that have been kicking around that maybe we should think about fixing.
Look at the way we speak on the radio and use portable designations and procedures. Our procedures for speaking on the radio have either been handed down or copied from the largest metropolitan city near us. Portable radios should be designated as the division (sector) that they are located. This enhances firefighter safety, accountability, and tactical priorities. It is simple and we don’t want to change it, “because that is the way we have always done it”.
Face the facts….I have no idea where portable engine 1 is located, or portable 100, but I do know where the crew is when the answer me “basement division”. I know where to send help, I know where the first and second line should be placed, and lots of other good things.
Definition 2 above speaks about precedents that influence the present. I am always on this bandwagon so I will be brief. We will continue to kill the same number of firefighters (100 a year) (precedent), each and every year (Present) until we decide to change our behavior and look at the risks we take.
In some cases traditional structural firefighting practices are killing our members. Class A foam, large lines, and a more defensive posture will make us safer.
Now on a more positive note….not all traditions are bad.
Some of the best traditions I know belong to the fire service and those we should, teach, treasure and cling to and make sure our newest members know them all. Further when they do not honor these then we need to apply some corrective measure to be sure they understand.
The camaraderie of firefighters…
Always being prepared and ready…
Helping at all costs in a time of need…
Compassion for others…
The humor and firehouse levity…
Eating and breaking bread together as a family….
Protecting one another…
These and many many other things are what make the fire service the greatest profession in the world and they give us …
A proud past, and a promising future