Thesis for an Anniversary Gift has been running for a little over a year now.
What are you doing with it?

“To provide a point of critical thought about certain acts and events in the fire service while incorporating behavioral education and commentary in a referenced format.”

When I first started writing, I believed I needed to have some direction, a goal or summary of what my intent was and still is.

I’ve been told my writing is, at times, too cerebral. One commenter actually called it cerebral diarrhea.

Hence an expostulation on what I believe within this world of social media, networking, education, mental health, odd folk running into burning buildings and those who oppose that.

1. Long before blogs, and Fire Engineering magazine, there were firefighters doing stupid acts. They did so while fighting fire, going to and from fire, while training, and while off duty. The age of electronic enlightenment has not provoked more stupid acts and it has not discouraged stupid acts. The only thing it has done is made them better known and beholden to some.

2. Some within the American fire service have shifted their existence from supporting valid causes in the name of safety and safe operations, to marketing those causes. When profit and brand name recognition become the priority, then the value of your safety and welfare has been grossly slighted.

3. There are strategies and tactics. Within each there are some absolutes. The variables in each are formed in where the fire takes place. My department’s standard operating procedures work for me and only me. They are designed for my area, my staffing, my equipment and my finances. They are custom tailored to fit me and my department. They have been tested, changed and will continue to be tested and changed. If they need to be changed, my officers and chiefs will make that move. If my department suffers as catastrophic event, we will make the necessary changes in the way we operate. There are no cookie-cutter strategies and tactics; you and I will attack a basement fire differently. You and I will disagree about vent, enter, and search. I respect your view and I hope you respect mine; however, respect goes out the window when you are adamant about my department being “wrong”. If you were hired as a consultant to my department, then I will continue to listen. If your only tallest structure is a grain silo, I will take what you say about high-rise firefighting with a grain of salt. You should do the same if I talk about water shuttles and have no tankers.

4. Safety is not our greatest concern. Education is. I firmly believe that Charles Bailey was correct when he wrote that the fire service needs to seek help from those outside; educators, sociologist, psychologists, in order to find the “disconnect” we have in learning from tragedy and close calls.

5. If the fire service wants to have more of a positive impact in firefighter safety, then we need to have a greater investment in public education.

6. Zero line of duty deaths is an unrealistic number. So are 10. So are 50. The goal should simply be less than the previous year. As long as we focus on breaking a record, complacency creeps in.

7. Knee-jerk reactions to social media problems will cause damage to our future fire service education. As usual, the fire service is reactive instead of proactive when it comes to social media technology.

8. Military metaphors and comparisons have their place in fire service education and educating our leaders, but we have to draw the line when we begin to equate making an aggressive fire attack with trying to assault Fallujah Bridge or the Shahi-Kot Valley.

9. Victim Survivability Profiling will eventually result in a minority (non-White) family suing a fire department over a loved one’s death.

10. Much like our nation’s “greatest generation”, those who lived during World War II, the fire service will slowly begin losing its “greatest generation”. True stories of firefighting during the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, especially in our well known urban departments, told in their proper context will be swept away by fads, commercialism and self-promoting effects to remember historic fires. Truths will be lost in hype and glory.

11. Our fire service educators and their respective organizations need to encourage and foster mentoring within their own ranks. Instead of being tied down to publishers and editors, their messages need to be crafted so that there is a successful transition among the generations as personal life changes occur. Who has filled Francis Brannigan’s shoes? Who is sharing Vincent Dunn’s “lessons learned”? Who will carry on “The Secret List”?

12. As long as there are firefighter calendars, fire departments will continually deal with sexual harassment issues. Any female firefighter, who poses in turnout gear with her breasts spilling out, will always be subject to harassment. If you are going to be eye candy to support a cause or organization, be prepared to take the criticism. The same applies to men as well.

13. Despite websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Google, there will always be a firefighter seriously asking a question from which the answer can easily be found if he or she asked a member of the department. How can we think education does not matter if a young firefighter has to seek such answers through the internet?

14. Every fire department needs a public information officer. Career, Combination or Volunteer, every department needs at least one person whose main goals are to promote the department and be fully prepared to deal with bad press and make the most of good press.

15. EMS, particularly EMS educators, is the fire service’s greatest untapped resource for developing continuing education for firefighters.

16. Much like proving validity in sports records amid scandals, the way we count our line of duty deaths is skewed. I believe if you die while operating in willfully negligent ways you should be honored, but not counted.

17. If we were serious about reducing line of duty deaths, then we would be pushing, strongly, for mandatory, yearly medical and fitness screenings. Every expo out there should give one day during their expo/exhibit schedule to providing free health and fitness checks, cancer screenings, instruction on physical fitness and healthy eating, and mental health.

18. NIOSH firefighter fatality reports need to be overhauled to: 1. Gain greater attention, 2. Reinforce and relate department-specific operations, tactics and strategy, 3. Give greater attention to previous, repeated contributing acts, 4. Include a more diverse expert review panel.

19. Training material is not exclusive. The delivery and packing is, but not the subject matter.

20. What are we truly learning from Near-Miss that we can’t learn from on YouTube?

21. If you blog or write about the fire and EMS service, you should regularly ask yourself why you started in the first place. If you find you have strayed, or can’t recall, you should quit.

There you go. Some of the ying and yang in me, trying to state the duality of firefighters.

Happy Anniversary FireEMSBlogs.

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  • Jameson Ayotte says:

    Great job. Some high quality ideas we need to address.

  • Nate Q. says:

    Please excuse me for being crude, but keep the cerebral diarrhea coming (I’ve got my Immodium handy). With a mind as jumbled as mine, it’s nice to see organized, thought provoking writing. I think some critical thinking could do all of us some good. The “referenced format” encourages readers to do their own research and make up their own minds instead of jumping on the nearest bandwagon. Above all, your blog, along with many of the other FireEMS Blogs, promote healthy discussion among all sides of the issues. That’s something not seen on a lot of other sites. That, and cool Full Metal Jacket clips…

    So, keep it up, and regarding the duality of man, just remember: “Anyone that runs is VC. Anyone standing still…is well-disciplined VC.”

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