Often, the poor image our peers and the public have of us, comes from us.

One cold January morning, a “street musician” stood inside a Washington, D.C. Metro subway station at rush hour, took out his violin and began playing some classical music. Most of the commuters paid him no heed, a handful stopped to listen while waiting for their train to arrive, and some gave him money. When he was done, he collected some thirty something dollars and change. They may have thought that he was just another homeless person or unemployed musician.

He was Joshua Bell, considered to be one of the best classical violinists in the world who the night before performed a sold out concert at Boston’s Symphony Hall where ticket prices were $100. His Stradivarius violin is worth $3.5 Million dollars, and he performed some of Bach’s most difficult pieces written for the violin. Bell’s subway performance was a social experiment set up by the Washington Post to gauge people’s perceptions.

Let us take a good hard look at the Fire Department we serve on. Are we putting up a perception of a well functioning organization or a dysfunctional one?

Some fire department’s have the best when it comes to equipment. Their firehouses are brand new, everything is shiny, new and well maintained, yet the FD does not have the manpower to fill out an effective first alarm assignment by NFPA 1710 or 1720 standards and has to rely on mutual aid for just about everything.

Some fire department’s have crappy equipment and quarters. People look at the horrendous conditions of the stations; the trucks falling apart and think that “these no good bums don’t care about their community and have no pride”. The truth is the fact the firefighters deeply care about the job and have been underfunded and kept understaffed by the politicians who feel that saving a nickel on the tax rate and parks and recreation takes a priority to fire protection.

Some FD’s have good equipment, yet the trucks and tools are not kept clean. Some people may think “wow, they must be a really busy fire department… they don’t have the time to clean up after a fire” when in fact they really don’t care for one reason or another, whether it be laziness, a dispute with the city or town, a pissing match between shifts or a disagreement with the FD administration.

The public’s perception of who we are and what we do is formed by our actions or lack thereof. It is also formed by what is posted on social media by the public and by our own members. I have always had the mantra “praise in public, scold in private”. How many of our “brothers and sisters” air the FD’s dirty laundry in front of the public at the local diner, watering hole or on Facebook, yet do not give their brothers and sisters kudos for a job well done?

It is up to us to work together and strive to project a positive image, educate the politicians and the public and defend our profession. How many times do we have to shoot ourselves in the foot with “bullets of negativity” until we realize that it hurts?


Ron Ayotte is a Deputy Chief of the Marlborough (MA) Fire Department and employee to the Support Services division of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Service/Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

We encourage and support constructive dialogue and debate. View our comment policy.

(function() {
var po = document.createElement(‘script’); po.type = ‘text/javascript’; po.async = true;
po.src = ‘’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s);

Find us on Google+

You are not authorized to see this part
Please, insert a valid App IDotherwise your plugin won't work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

background image Blogger Img

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.”

FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

Jeff chandler
44.7 Percent
Very good explanation! I have been known to have the same rant.
2015-01-17 03:58:59
Anthony Correia
44.7 Percent
Dave i agree with your whole post. However the one thing I'm not experiencing or seeing is the over safetyifcation. While i hear words spoke about being safe when possible, but not sacrificing service for safety. If anything, i see firefighters more aggressive than when i started many years back due to the increased protection…
2015-01-14 14:37:28
Jon Newton
44.7 Percent
Well done. You make some awesome points. In regards to the "numbers".....(and kind of backing up your thought of changing tactics), we have often wondered why there is so much emphasis on RIT and the RIT/Industrial complex. I'm on Chicago and have worked in the Chicago Suburbs for almost 20 years. We've seen the advent…
2015-01-14 04:15:23
Marshall Sampietro
44.7 Percent
spot on....
2015-01-02 14:43:50
Ron Ayotte
44.7 Percent
“Over safetyification”... Dave, that is the best description of what those who want to prevent us from doing the job want to do to the job.
2014-12-31 16:29:29
Plugin from the creators ofBrindes Personalizados :: More at PlulzWordpress Plugins