I hear and see a lot of discussion going on in the fire service about lots of different topical issues, and I think that maybe we as a group, are trying to work on the symptoms rather than the actual problems.
This week lets take a couple of these issues and see if we can get to the root cause. I am not sure that I have the correct actual cause but at least I will offer my two cents worth.
None of us have enough manpower. Career, paid on call or volunteer, I am sure we would hear a common theme that there is not enough help early on at fires. Ok, that’s the issue not enough help. I have heard a bunch of ways we are working on this problem from hiring, more help, to volunteer recruitment and retention.
My first choice would probably be to get more personnel and have the community try to solve this issue by any normal financial means available. Not a bad choice.
A second method would be to get a larger pool of people to deal with as in the call and volunteer sector.
One possible solution is that people should call and use more automatic aid on first alarm struck boxes so that sufficient and adequate help is arriving on the fire scene sooner. Now someone would and could argue that this becomes a burden to other communities. I am certain that is the case, but unless you are in a major city you are probably not having more than 12 working structural mutual aid parties per year anyway!
Your city manager, mayor, council, or selectmen, may all be the root of your financial concerns, but not one of them would accept the responsibility for you acting unsafely at an alarm. You are the professional and it is your job to arrive safely, and do whatever you can safely do to mitigate the problem before you. Maybe you, and your department have dictated that you will assume these risks, and that you can easily blame the city government, but the reality is the decision you make on the fireground as they relate to personal safety are primarily yours.
A very scary and unpopular thought, but we should at least consider it. I am not quite ready to adopt it yet but it certainly does need to be entertained.
I have often heard at many a fire department kitchen table, “…If anything ever happens to me, I will have my family sue this city….”, and maybe that is the rightful and just answer.
I would hate for that to happen and have the city throw some decision or action we take back at us. There are lawyers that would love to do just that.
Sad but true these days.
OK another issue I hear a lot about….”These darn, paramedics just don’t act like we think they should…” Ok, OK, I watered down that sentence a lot, but you get the idea.
If the paramedics on your department feel superior, or act superior, try to find out what the issue is.
Ok we could say it is the way they have been trained, or we could say it is some culture that they don’t understand firefighters or words and phrases like a “different breed”.
Ok so what have YOU done about it. The issue is anyone will behave anyway they are allowed to and that is acceptable to their organization. It is that simple. If the paramedics behavior is not acceptable, then clearly have someone who is their superior sit down, calmly, and professionally advise them, coach, counsel and correct them to follow your department rules and regulations or standard operating procedures.
OH…..you don’t have any of those? Oh, you have some old ones that nobody follows? Oh, that makes the officers uncomfortable and they don’t like to talk to others about performance issues, because after all they are one of the members too?
I get it now, the ISSUE is not really the paramedics behavior, it is that we have not trained counseled and corrected their behavior, so it continues.
Hmmm, what is the REAL issue then?
When trying to solve fire service problems, let’s look at the real root or core ISSUE and try to work on creative different solutions to resolve that.
Ever been asked the promotional or oral board question, what do you do if you suspect your partner has been drinking? I was first asked that question well over 15 years ago and heard it asked just recently at another promotional exam. If we had fixed that problem correctly 15 years ago as a fire service maybe we wouldn’t still have to be asking that question.
If firefighters are getting killed while lost and disoriented, lets not only figure out fancy ways to rescue them, lets figure out how to prevent them from getting lost and disoriented.
Sometimes the issue gets lost in the argument..
Stay safe and stay thinking!