May 4 is now known as International Firefighters Day. It is also the feast day of Saint Florian. I have always known about the feast day but I am not sure when International Firefighters Day started, but it really doesn’t matter.
I think it would be a great time for one day to all come together as firefighters with all of our training differences, all of our urban, suburban, or rural depaftments and focus on our common areas.
We are all members of the greatest professions in the world. I say profession even if you are not paid. This is one of a handful of careers that is really as much of a vocation as it is a job.
I am proud that I have served in lots of capacities for 40 years. I cannot thank the many hundreds if not thousands of firefighters I have met, and those meetings helped shaped me or my career in some way.
My podcast has served to shrink the world in many ways, as I now have listeners in Sweden, many places in Europe, Australia, Canada, Asia etc. My spoken word is able to have something in common with fellow firefighters all over the world.I am thankful for each and everyone of those listeners.
On this day, I am going to be thankful I have had the chance to serve others and be part of the brotherhood and sisterhood. I am thankful that I have had the ability to train and help mentor some young firefighters who want to get into the service.
Just sit back a little today and marvel at how lucky you are for the gift of the fire service in your life.
You are something special, you are a firefighter!
I also have included a piece about Saint Florian for those that are interested. This piece was written for my blog by Retired Fire Chief Jim Blanchard of Saugus Massachusetts. (Jim wrote a number of pieces for me and they can be found at the petelamb.com page with. A tab across the top that says history.)
Here is the piece:
Saint Florian Patron Saint of Firefighters
All firefighters are aware that Saint Florian is the patron Saint of firefighters. Many have purchased and are very proud to wear the Saint Florian medallion around their neck. These medallions are usually gold and many are shaped in the form of a Maltese cross with the image of Florian stamped in the center of it. If you ask who Florian was or why he is our Patron Saint, most firefighters don’t know. They assume it is because he made some heroic fire rescue or maybe he was a priest who was involved in the fire service. These answers are the typical response but neither is accurate.
Florian was a Captain in the Roman army. He was a brave soldier and a tenacious fighter. Rome recognized the danger of fire and was the first to employ a fire department. This first fire department was made up of slaves. They had no real desire to risk their lives battling the flames of their captors. Rome desperately needed fire protection. They called on Captain Florian to organize and train an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires. Captain Florian indeed organized such a group. They were highly trained and very successful at protecting Rome from fires. A brigade of firefighters followed the army and provided fire protection at their encampments. These firefighters were highly respected and easily recognized. They wore the traditional Roman soldier uniform except the skirt was green. The most famous picture of Saint Florian depicts him with a young boy pouring water from a pitcher onto a fire. This picture if seen in color reveals this green skirt.
Rome was very impressed by this young Captain and all that he had accomplished. They decided to reward him by making him a general. Generals were often given large tracks of conquered land to govern. The only rules were that they had to enforce the laws of Rome and collect the taxes. Florian’s area included almost all of Poland.
Rome began to hear some rumors about the way Florian was governing his land. It was reported that he was not enforcing Rome’s law forbidding Christianity. Rome did not believe this, but they did sent investigators to check. They reported back that it was true. Rome sent a group of soldiers to confront Florian. They warned and threatened him that he must enforce the laws of Rome and abolish Christianity. Florian not only refused he confessed that he had embraced the faith and become a Christian himself. Rome was furious. They tortured him and demanded he renounce his faith. Florian steadfastly refused. Rome ordered his execution.
Florian was to be burned at the stake. Soldiers marched him out and secured him to the post. Villagers gathered around to witness the execution. Florian begged his executioners to build the fire higher. He implored them to light the fire so his soul would rise up to heaven on the smoke from the blaze. The soldiers had never seen this kind of reaction from a person about to be burned alive. They were frightened. What if his soul did rise up, right in from of all the villagers? They could not afford a martyr. The fire was not lit. Florian was taken away by the soldiers who decided to drown him. He was placed in a boat and rowed out into the river. A millstone was tied around his neck and he was pushed over board and drowned.
After his death, people who were trapped by fire reported that they invoked Florians name and his spirit delivered them from the flames. These occurrences were reported and documented many times. Florian was confirmed a saint for his commitment to his faith and the documentation of his spirit delivering trapped persons from the flames.
It is only fitting, that firefighters, committed to their duty, and instilled with the spirit to dedicate themselves to the protection of life and property, should choose such a man as their patron saint.
In a previous time when we were using a windows computer there was a feature called a restore point. If some error was discovered you could go back in the computer to a previous point in time.
Hmmm, just imagine if we had such a device in real life at the firehouse kitchen table. When someone was disgruntled or out of sorts and complaining about any variety of topics, we could suddenly revert them to the time they were wanting to get on the job.
As you read this think about the pleasant stress of driving to pick up the application packet, the sharing of stories of each step of the step by step process, the butterflies in your stomach when you got called for the interview, and the sheer excitement and joy of gettghing “the phone call” that you were appointed.
Think about that first day in the firehouse apparatus bay. the smell of the turnout gear, the smell of the tires, maybe motor oil or diesel, the ever present puddle of where that appears on every fire apparatus floor.
I hope this brief paragraph was able to trigger your minds eye and senses to relieve these moments. While they were different for all of us there are some similarities I am sure.
While thinking of these moments, it is kind of hard to complain about the city government, the chief, the captain or whatever.
Think about the first time a citizen said thank you to you, or seent food to the station or sent a thank you card.
You see, my point here is that is so easy to be consumed by the bad and the negative we have forgotten why we are here in the first place. We do not have this restore button but a good companmy or senior crew member can serve that role.
One of the best things we can do is to stop the discussion early, and get folks to remember why they are really here.
As much as we think so, this job is lots of fun, and the greatest job in the world it is not about us…..it is about the crew, the department and those we promised to serve.
On Thursday May 4th, 2017 there will be an online Officer discussion held by Pete Lamb and Retired Battalion Chief John Cagno on officer development. THIS IS A FREE WEBINAR limited to 20 people. Join us and bring your own officer problem to discuss if you want.
What: Officer webinar roundtable discussion
When: Thursday May 4, 2017 – 1900 hours Eastern Time
Where: Register by sending an email to email@example.com with OFFICER WEBINAR in the subject line. You will be sent an invitation approximately 15 minutes before the webinar on the 4th.
You should have a webcam and a microphone to participate. We will be using a product called Zoom. You can get pre set up by going to Zoom.us and getting the applet that allows access to your webcam and microphone. It is a safe product to download for this use and there is no cost to you.
This week the Tactical Fire Problem involves a situation where you are off duty, in an out of district area at a nightclub. Review the story f the Beverly Hills Supper Club for an incident just like this where a career firefighter (off duty) almost did not make it out.
1.) How well prepared are you when you are “off duty”? Are you aware of your surroundings?
2.) How would you react if you had been drinking?
3.) Would your actions be different if you had a significant other with you or another loved one?
4.) Is it possible to overestimate your training and the reaction of a mob/crowd?
5.) What are you going to do? Give your first three actions.
This is a post that accompanies this week’s podcast. It was published in Firehouse Magazine back in 2004-2005. It was relevant then, and I believe even more relevant now.
Let’s Put Discipline back into the fire service.
I am sure we have all heard it around the kitchen table or at meeting night in our own fire stations…the great malady of all times in the fire service…..”These new guys just aren’t the same”, “back in our day…” It really doesn’t matter if you are a large department or a small rural volunteer company, the facts are the folks that are joining our organizations clearly are different and have some different values then those from days gone by. I also believe that we as fire officers, leaders and fire instructors have a missing ingredient that we are failing to provide. That ingredient is discipline. Discipline takes on many forms and most of those always seem to have a negative connotation. It is my belief that discipline can be the most valuable corrective and educational tool that we have in the fire service.
One of the definitions of discipline is the systematic training or subjection to authority especially the training of the mental, moral, and physical powers by instruction and exercise. (Funk & Wagnall’s) Wow, that doesn’t sound bad at all does it? These are exactly the principles that we should foster in the fire service and our own departments.
The other aspect that we should look at is the various levels of discipline starting with our own personal discipline, shift or group level discipline, and departmental discipline.
Do we have the personal discipline to do what we are supposed to do, even when nobody is looking? Do we always wear our seatbelts, or never remove our air mask too early. Do we have personal pride in our own demeanor, uniform and skill levels? Some of these issues have a direct relationship to whether or not we follow orders, stay as a crew, don’t free lance, and many other issues in the fire house and on the fire scene.
Shift or group level discipline
This relates to your shift or group on the career side or maybe your station or company on the call and volunteer side, but the results are the same. How do you compare with the other groups in your department? Is your group known as the “A” team or as “F” troop? If you are the company officer it is your responsibility to make sure your group is “…systematically training of the mental, moral, and physical powers by instruction and exercise” Nobody but you can make this happen. Don’t be looking over your shoulder for anyone else because this relates to your personal discipline as an officer.
The DISCIPLINE Acronym
Since the fire service loves acronyms, I have created an acronym using the word discipline, which relates to something that we can all bring to the fire service. I have approached the acronym as something we all need and we can apply it from the officer point of view as well as the firefighter point of view. Take it and apply it as you see fit.
D – Determination. If you are a company officer, you will need determination and stamina. Enforcing rules and regulation is not easy and having to re-visit some issues, time and time again can wear you down. As a firefighter, determination is what prevents you from becoming lax or nonchalant. You always buckle up, wear all of your PPE and follow SOPs. This too, can be very challenging and it takes determination to continue to do this all the time.
I – Integrity If you are a company officer all you have is your integrity. Your personnel should be able to trust you and what you say. It is really that simple. There are too many people that take their personal integrity much too lightly. If you are a firefighter your company officer must know that your personal integrity will allow him /her to trust you and your actions and abilities. For both officers and firefighters integrity means being truthful and forthright and it also includes honestly looking at your abilities as well.
S – Sincerity People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I saw this quote many years ago and I am unsure of it’s origin but the sentiment is very true. Fire officers must truly care about their members and members must care about each other and truly wish to become part of the team.
C – Competence This is easily said and not always done. Passing the test does not make you competent; your performance under stress in the field demonstrates it much better. As an officer do you have technical ability and demonstrate a command presence? As a firefighter do you keep your skills sharp and maintain yourself current so that your shift officer is never embarrassed by your lack of knowledge, skills or abilities?
I – Initiative – Do you have to wait for written orders or directive number 17 to come down from headquarters or are you a self motivated starter who will get things done without supervision. Officers enjoy having firefighters on their group or engine company that show initiative and self motivation.
P – PridePride is nothing more than caring about the things that you do regardless if anyone is looking or not. It is about you, your appearance, and your actions. It also applies to our off duty behavior whether we like that or not or whether we choose to believe it or not. Our personal pride as an officer or as a firefighter means an awful lot. It reflects in our behavior as others see us.
L – Loyalty As an officer one should always show a more pronounced sense of loyalty to the department and administration as you move up the ladder and chain of command. You should also show a sincere sense of loyalty to those who serve with you as subordinates and make you look good every day. That loyalty can be a tough one to balance between those who serve with you and those to whom you serve. There is a distinct difference between loyalty and blind allegiance. Loyalty involves a conscience feeling of wanting to achieve the goals of leadership, and blind allegiance means following folks even when we know they might be wrong. It is well beyond the scope of this article to venture down this path.
I – Instructing One of the primary jobs and tasks of an officer or a senior firefighter is to help mentor and train and instruct others along the way. There is nothing greater that will help improve the fire service more than the sharing of knowledge, skills and experience between folks that have the skills and those new students who are trying to learn them.
N – Nimble Officers and firefighters in the fire service really suffer when it comes to this. We must be nimble and ready willing and able to make changes much faster then we do. The factors that affect our ability to be nimble are the size of our department, and the number and length of long standing traditions and / or practices. The fire officer and firefighter has to be operationally nimble, but also mentally ready to be nimble to adjust their personal and professional course and things change around us. You know, change ….like for instance the new recruits that are coming to us now, let’s say.
E – Enthusiasm There is no way to easily hide your personal enthusiasm for the job, or for that matter your lack of enthusiasm either. Fire officers and firefighters who show enthusiasm and passion for the job will find that it is truly contagious and it positively benefits an organization, shift, or department. Enthusiasm cannot be faked nor forced upon anyone and it should be the job of officers and or firefighters to help foster and spread enthusiasm.
So to me the answer is clear, whether or not you choose the dictionary definition of systematic training or subjection to authority especially the training of the mental, moral, and physical powers by instruction and exercise, or if you choose to implement my DISCIPLINE acronym, the fire service might be a better place for your action. The fact that we now have explored that discipline in whatever form applies to us personally, as an engine or ladder company officer or member, as a group, shift or platoon member and even right to the top as a an entire department, means that you the reader can do something about it without anybody else’s help. You don’t need the chief, the captain, mayor or city manager, we can all apply a little more discipline to the fire service and maybe there will be something else new to talk about at the kitchen table next week! Let’s stop admiring the problem of these new recruits not being the same, and do something about it.
Stay safe and take care of one another!
Here is this week’s podcast where I speak about this very topic and more!
This week on the Firefighter Training Podcast I discuss our use of the term paramilitary organization , respect for our veterans, and a discussion about discipline.