OK. Now I’ve suckered you in. I have to admit my choice of words was intentional. This article WILL NOT BE about the concepts of Building Construction that may be of concern to members of the fire service. It may touch on these subjects briefly and in broad general terms but is not a lecture to cover all bases . It is however, another attempt by me to share an idea that I ( and many others) have to better ourselves, others, and the Fire Service Industry. In my last article I made mention of the Brother /Sisterhood concept. It made me think of some ways that we can try to improve a tradition that’s been around as long as the business itself. I hope to compare building a house to building an improved Fire Service.
When a family decides to build a house it’s a massive undertaking that affects every member of the family. There are many aspects to think of. They have to think about what every aspect will mean in every one’s lives. What will the financial outcomes be? What will they do for temporary housing? Where will they build? What style of home will they decide on? What are the schools like for the children? In the beginning the questions seem to be never ending. Most people will choose to seek advice from friends, family or maybe co-workers. This is like choosing to start your career in the Fire Service. A person who is taking this first step will have many questions. What is it like inside a burning building How do I get the training I may need? What if I can’t handle it? What else will I be made to do? What if something happens? Like deciding to build a house, this will be a very big step in a lot of folks lives. Some of us, my self included, choose to make this decision while young. Some choose to wait until their children are grown. Whenever the decision is made, it’s a step many never take. People who choose to become members in our departments will seek the advice of existing members. They will seek out the person in the department who is open and willing to answer all of their questions. This is an important time to make the right impression. It wouldn’t be wise to let the old war horse be the only impression they see. In the same manner it wouldn’t be wise to let the newest junior firefighter give the candidate their only taste of the department either. We must recognize that this is a rough time for this person. This will be a a pivotal time for this member to decide if they will follow through with their membership or not. I feel that we should choose someone to be a new candidate’s mentor. A mentor can be the one who answers the questions, or who may help teach the new skills. A mentor must realize that not everyone who walks in to a fire station is cut out to be the nozzle-man on the next 4 alarm run. While helping to shape the new candidate the mentor can report to the officer who can help shape trainings and opportunities that may help the candidate. If there is a reason that the new member isn’t able to perform the functions the officer and mentor may be able to help them decide if there’s something else they can do within the department to help the community. In today’s society there’s always something for someone whose willing to give to do. Case in point, if you have a new candidate whose an accountant that isn’t comfortable going interior maybe they can become the treasurer. Whatever it maybe everyone has skills that will help in some way.
The next step in building a home is choosing a lot on which to build. This is usually influenced by alot of things. Some I’ve already mentioned schools, family, work , and many more. This is like the new member trying to decide which department to join. Again this decision is often influenced by many things. Some may choose your department because it closest to their home. Other may choose your organization because of a special skill your department offers such as truck company or dive rescue service. What ever the reason we must remember that these folks chose to join your department. We should feel honored that we are able to draw new members. In these times finding volunteers is very difficult. The impressions we make now will possibly affect that individual for ever. We cannot afford to have the attitude that we will always be so fortunate to have members coming in. Yes we should screen members carefully but to be arrogant enough to push people away because someones not made to do the job is juvenile and in some cases maybe even criminal.
The next step in building a home is to build the foundation. A considerable amount of time, effort and money are put in to assuring the foundation is a strong and sturdy as it can be. The foundation is the base that will support the entire load of the rest of the house. It’s not wrong to assume that one small imperfection may lead to future problems with the entire house. This is similar to providing the new candidate the basics he or she will need. If we provide partial information or possibly no information at all the foundation to this persons fire service career will be week. The old saying you play like you practice is very true in this case. If we fail to mention the importance of using SCBA , PASS Device, PPE and all necessary safety equipment associated with our jobs aren’t we depriving that individual of the foundations of safety in the fire service. Another old saying that holds some value here is the one about crawling before you walk and walking before you run. We must begin teaching all candidates from the same point regardless of age. How many times have you been in a class and seen the individual who obviously is lacking the prerequisite knowledge. The fault lies with several persons. I do not condemn the individual for seeking out the training and experience. What I do feel needs mentioned is that sometimes a person should realize that you cannot take Vehicle Ops before you take the Awareness level class. Sometimes it may be the fault of the chief or training officer who signs off school applications. I don’t think I really need to expand on this too much. We have all seen it. It happens for many reasons. All I can say is that the folks responsible for this are allowing themelves open to a world of bad happenings. We’re all aware of these too.
The next step thats in every ones home building experience is to choose the style of house. OK so its probably a decision thats made before the foundation. We all know the many styles of houses. Theres Colonial, Tudor, Ranch, and many many others. It would be an obvious comparison to say these equate to the fire department functions Engine, Truck, Rescue, or Squad. What I’d like to compare this to is the way new members chooe to carry themselves after the initial shock has worn off. Yes I am going to make the often undesirable remarks on human nature. I am not saying that to be any of the following is bad or meant to be negative. I am only mentioning this as a point to think about. After the “probationary” period has expired it’s common to see the changes in everyone. What often starts as a quiet individual often mutates in to a mouthy arrogant know it all. It’s possible to see that person stay the same but everyone at some point will revert to their natural self. We should expect to see some change at a point where the person becomes comfortable with his/her surroundings. We need to forsee these changes and try all we can to steer them in a direction thats fitting for both the organization and the member.
Again, I hope I’ve thrown some ideas out there to help better people and organizations. I welcome comments.