Rhetorical Lesson No.1: ‘Perfect’

I enjoy following politics, not the extremist, foaming-at-the-mouth, party line-do or die politics, but the science of politics. That said I’m also a fan of George Will. Last week on ABC’s This Week, the Roundtable closed with the panel’s thoughts on Jim Joyce’s infamous call during the Detroit Tigers game. George elevated the issue to two main subjects: Forgiveness and Perfectionism. He gave a great statement and like similar ones I hear of from time to time, and think can apply to the fire service, I tucked it away for later use. During his discussion George said “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” I thought this surely applies to the fire service especially within the safety v. aggressive debates but how? Maybe I’ll use it, maybe not.

Then I saw the video of an Atlanta truck company at work and the comments that followed.

“ok, so, their not on air, they dont even have their facepieces on! WTF!???? If that was me up there I would not want this video on youtube or anywhere else for that matter, nevermind the fact that no one is even heeling that ladder, there are so many safety issues in this video i would be ashamed if it was the department I worked for.”

“Nobody footed the ladder?
Nobody sounded the roof before going cross country?
Nobody was wearing gloves?
They all took the time to donn the B/A’s but nobody had the brains to actually mask up and breathe air?
Didn’t see a single roll of any rafters?
Get it together guys!
343NeverForget911 20 hours ago”

“tell your boyz to put their gloves on and maskup,the guy on the right almost fell in the hole. Nice job not”

“was a good video ..but they should of had there BA mask on”

“no gloves”

Regardless of the fact of whether or not you or I see both good and bad practices in the video, the question I put before you is:

Is the safety philosophy trying to create the perfect fireground?

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Come on Nation, get out and vote!

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  • Larry Jenkins (Captain retired) says:

    OK, think ahead a few years. The perfect fire is where no one goes in anymore. We need to wake up and realize that this is still a dangerous job. People are going to get killed and injured. We can prevent most of those, but sometimes even when you do everything right, something goes wrong. I started this back in 1968 and just retired this week. I worked at busy houses, last year my station ran almost 10,000 calls. So, I have been to a lot of fires. Only a couple have been perfect. We can only get better if we do it smarter. I sometimes feel that we push safety too much and become unsafe. The fact is we signed on knowing how dangerous the job is. It’s not OK to die trying to safe someone, but if it happens then other people should learn from it. If your not willing to give your life if required, then may be your in the wrong profession.

  • Nate Q. says:

    I agree with your question to a point. Sometimes it does seem as though in the pursuit of that “perfection” of safety, we sometimes lose sight of our objectives, and fear of “what if’s” replaces a confidence and proficiency in basic skills. Many of the comments are just what they seem, armchair quarterbacking, and I’m sure their own videos wouldn’t be as perfect as their comments (nobody to heel the ladder?…give me a break, it’s a straight ladder at a good angle on grass…not ice). If you look at the total time of the video, this crew caught the vent (from truck to exiting the roof) in just over three minutes, and looked like a fairly solid operation. I would, however, agree that masking up isn’t a bad option, and one of those basic skills we learn from day one. Would it have made much of a difference on this job, probably not. But I think of the mask like this: I know that every time I drive down the street in my car, there’s a chance of getting injured in an accident. However I still try to put my seatbelt on each time, so that when I am in that accident, the injury might not be as bad. You’ll have to excse the bad analogy, it sounds better in my head (along with most other things that come out of my mouth).

  • backstepfirefighter says:

    Thanks Larry, Nate.

    I agree that the push to critique with regard to being safe has become so universal that it begs to ask if you can ever have a perfect fireground. Just like every other fireground, none of us will always be fully safety compliant at every single fire. Could the crew in the video have done better? Yes. Could they have done worse? Yes. As Nate points out about heeling the ladder, and if you saw the comments on Brotherhood Instructors’ Facebook post of the same video, it’s not an ‘IFSTA fire’. Life is imperfect and so is firefighting.

    Congratulations on your retirement Larry,


  • FF3335 says:

    First off congrats to the Cap on his retirement…its a great point to bring out that no fire goes perfect!! but these guys got the job done by opening up…thats a crew I’d want if I was doing a primary…come on guys lighten up this isnt Wall St we are working on its a dangerous job face it or leave it

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