What Is Pride?

Ron Ayotte with some thoughts on pride while on the detail.

During the evening of August 28th into he early morning hours of the 29th I was working a firewatch detail at on of our elderly housing complexes due to the power being knocked out by Hurricane/tropical storm Irene. I had a small Honda generator to provide power to the centrally located Recreation Hall of the complex and brought a copy of Rick Lasky’s book “Pride and Ownership, A Firefighters Love of the Job that a friend had lent to me.

As I began reading, I thought to myself “how does one define pride in the fire service?” Let’s take the word pride and break down letter by letter.

The letter “P” stands for professionalism Being professional doesn’t mean collecting a paycheck as a career firefighter or paid on call, stipends or any other form of compensation if one is a volunteer. Professionalism is an attitude, learning about our craft and keeping up with it. It is doing the job properly, without making excuses. It is putting our best efforts to do what we were sworn in for: the protection of life and property.

The letter “R” stands for respect. Respect for the job. Respect for the rank. Respect for those we serve. Respect cannot be demanded, it has to be earned. Most of all, the letter “R” stand for the respect for those who blazed the trail and did the job before us and made the sacrifices (some of them supreme) that define the job today.

The letter “I” stands for integrity. As firefighters, from the green behind the ears Probie to a grizzled old Chief, we are held to a higher standard. When one swears the oath to serve and protect life and property, we assume a position of trust. When someone calls 911 for an emergency, they are, for want of a better term inviting us into their homes and their lives. They trust us. If we lose that trust, it takes a very long time to gain it back.

The letter “D” stands for dedication. Dedication is putting the needs of the public we serve ahead of our own. This was evident in the coverage we had for the storm. The men and women of my Department were away from their homes and families, many of their homes were without power and had property damage due to the high winds and heavy rains, yet they put the needs of the public ahead of their own. Dedication is also keeping up with the latest trends in the fire service by constantly training, reading the print and electronic versions of the trade magazines (Firehouse, Fire Engineering, Fire Rescue) as well as those put out by other departments, such as WNYF, the publication of the FDNY. It is also reading and learning from blogs such as Backstep Firefighter, Iron Firemen, A Firefighters Worst Enemy and others. The writers of these blogs share their experiences and insights that we can bring back to our own personnel.

The letter “E” stands for excellence. The very nature of the job means that perfection cannot, will not and never ever be achieved. There are far too many variables in each and every call we respond to for that to happen. Excellence in what we do is a far more achievable goal.

Firefighting is a proud profession. Firefighters show their pride by wearing shirts with their department’s logo when they are off duty. A proud firefighter doesn’t wear the “I fight what you fear”, “Big Johnson FD”, “I’m only here for the beer” or any other kind of “whacker” T shirt. Career firefighters show pride by having the logo of the IAFF on their car windows, call and volunteer firefighters have their own versions to identify their pride; but one has to remember that “pride” isn’t a fire department shirt or a sticker, it is professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and the pursuit of excellence.

Ron Ayotte is a 29+ year veteran of the fire service and holds the rank of Deputy Chief with the Marlborough (MA) Fire Department. He also works per diem in the Support Services division of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Service/Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

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Backstep Firefighter

“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.”
Ben Waller
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Actually, the "Women and children first" idea cane from the sinking if the HMS Birkenhead. Now known as "The Birkenhead Drill", this stemmed from the ship beginning to sink, an inadequate number of lifeboats, and the Royal Marines and soldiers on board being called to formation and standing in ranks while the ships crew put…
2014-08-21 11:25:14
Ron Ayotte
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2014-08-21 02:49:30
Brian Gary
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Very well written. I couldn't agree more with your statements. The problems are many, but they perpetuate and increase with every new class of recruits that are poisoned with the idea that anyone who feels unsafe has a responsibility to act and stop whatever is going on. When I came on, my instructors told me…
2014-08-21 02:04:23
Ric Jorge
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Atta boy David, customer service or customer satisfaction? The line is fine, and more often than not we can accomplish both with action, and a kind demeanor.
2014-08-21 01:41:12
The Discussion EVERY Shift MUST HAVE
Thanks for having the stones to put this info. out there. If through your efforts and others we can save one brother or sister then you have made a positive change in the fire service and that is really what we should all aspire to do in one way or another.
2014-08-13 14:00:30
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