Perceptions

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.

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Comments
Ron Ayotte
“FEAR” by Ric Jorge
Ric, excellent article. Your FD is not the only one that suffers from TAS (Training Anxiety Syndrome). Same circus, different community. As far as seeking help from an EAP, I did take advantage of my community's EAP 8 years into my career. I was heading down the road to a separation/divorce after I got promoted…
2014-12-04 16:04:47
Mike McAdams
Who Looks After The Victims?
Captain LeBlanc, Great point in the blog debating the new and old techniques and how to blend them into that first minutes on the fire ground. One of the first points stated was “Unless they know your manpower, resources and abilities, and are standing in that front lawn at 2:00 a.m., all they can do…
2014-12-02 14:45:23
Ruel Douvillier
Who Looks After The Victims?
I suspect these new tactics are all related to the NFPA standard that came out a few years ago recommending higher manpower on apparatus than the authorities having jurisdiction were prepared to implement. For the 30+ years that I've been fighting fires, UL and NIST have been using the data that they gained by setting…
2014-12-02 11:48:44
Joseph carroll
Who Looks After The Victims?
I work in a dept with 2 man Engine cos, man powers is an issue with our first due assignment. (3 engs,2 Trks , Batt Chief). Usually 13 Firefighters on the assignment. At times the exterior attack has no option, heavy fire too include exposures etc. some new leaders feel that this exterior attack is…
2014-12-01 19:05:51
Brian
Who Looks After The Victims?
Am I missing the old SSLEEVES-OCD pneumonic??? seems that one. It addressed alot of the things we have to think of, and the new Slicers is something that I think in right circumstances and construction would make sense, but at other times might be completely useless. I have watched and read alot of the NIST…
2014-12-01 02:10:06
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