Remembrance and Our Purpose by Dave LeBlanc

Did you forget why you signed up for this job? Maybe you should review the origin of ‘EGH’

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No matter whom you ask, June is a tough month for the fire service. From the Vendome in Boston to the Super Sofa Store in Charleston; Fathers Day in Queens to Steve Minehan in Boston, too many firefighters have paid the ultimate price in this month. There are many more, and this is not meant to be a complete list. Certainly some of these have more impact based on where you live and how old you are.

No one death is more important than another, and to the families and firefighters affected, nothing can make the pain of their loss go away. Yet they find a way to go on, move forward and remember their fallen the best way they can, by living their lives. The firefighters learn what lessons they can, then pass them on to new firefighters.

The proud service, the one we all joined of our own free will, is in crisis. Some seem to have a problem remembering why they stepped up, why they swore and oath. They seem convinced the main mission has become too dangerous, and the risk is not worth the reward.

Probably one of the biggest disservices ever done to the fire service was hanging the moniker “inherently dangerous” around its neck. Since then it has been used too frequently, by too many, as an argument for more safety or as a bat to remind those firefighters the risks of the job.

Inherently dangerous – who talks like that? Do you tell your children that it is ‘inherently dangerous’ to cross the street without looking both ways? Of course not, instead you teach them to look both ways and cross with care. Some may teach them to never cross the street, just like some would train their firefighters not to enter burning buildings for the risk of getting hurt is too great.

Somewhere along the line, a change has come over the fire service. We have gone from being the noble knights, that stand between fire and our citizens, to being more concerns for ourselves and our well being. Our rookies are being taught that we come first, or they come first…instead of those we serve. We are being told that property is not worth a life, yet we are telling those we serve that we will no longer uphold our oath.

“Everyone Goes Home” has become the latest catch cry. A statement so bastardized from its original intent that its creator, Dave Gallagher, barely recognizes it. Everyone Goes Home has become the most misrepresented, most misunderstood and most abused statement it today’s fire service. Everyone Goes Home was coined by a firemen that understood that not everyone goes home, but like the military we will leave no one behind. We will bring them all home, learn from the events and then push on. He understood that we must train harder, and be prepared. We must be professional, and like professionals take our craft seriously.

Since then it has become the most cited phrase, by everyone. It has become, in the eyes of some, as an excuse not to do your job. If you go to work thinking that your safety comes first, before those you serve…yes SERVE….then you not only misunderstand the original intent of EGH, but you should seriously consider a career change.

Take what actions you can to ensure you and your crew come home from each call, build your safety into your training, but train to do your job, to take calculated risks and to protect life and property. Because if you aren’t doing that, then you had better explain to those same people you serve that your mission has changed.

You see, if we are not serious about putting out fires, about accepting the risk that comes with this job, and about doing our best to be prepared for whatever happens; well then not only are we letting ourselves down, but we are putting our lives and the lives of those we work with in danger. If we are not serious about putting out fires, then tell the Town Fathers to hire more DPW workers, and get rid of some firemen, because we won’t need all those fancy trucks and people to clean up the smoldering hole that is left when we are done.

Risk – expose (someone or something valued) to danger, harm, or loss.

Danger – the possibility of suffering harm or injury.

Harm – physically injure

Loss – the fact or process of losing something or someone

Avoidance – an act or practice of avoiding or withdrawing from something

Transfer – an act of moving something or someone to another place.

Act – take action; do something

When we avoid risk, to be safer, we are in fact transferring that risk onto someone else. Because we recognize there is danger, or the potential for loss or harm, doesn’t mean that we lessen that potential for injury or death for anyone else. It means that we have identified the potential for injury. Unless we act that risk will still exist and all we will have done is transfer it or increase it for those affected.

Yet when we raised our right hand, we swore we would accept that risk, protect those people and their property. We swore to serve them, to be honest, to be prepared and to make a difference when it was needed most. That is our purpose, and that is what we signed up for. That is what all those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in June, and every other month did.

If you really want to honor those that have fallen, then do as Old Gallagher says, “learn what you can from their death, and then push on.” We owe it to them, we owe it to our citizens, we owe it ourselves.

 

“Although ‘EGH, Everyone Goes Home’ is not always possible, it is part of what we strive for. It is why we train, it is why we read, it is why we interact with each other. We need to share the knowledge. The more we share, the more we pass on what we have learned, the safer we will be. The fewer funerals we will have to go to, the more of our Brothers and Sisters that will go home. Because it is all about protecting each other.” FOOLS International Acronyms

 

“You can do everything right on this job and still get killed” – Captain Paddy Brown, FDNY 3 Truck ‘RECON’

 

“Let no mans ghost come back to say my training let me down.” – FDNY Training Academy, “The Rock”

 

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Mitchell Photography, used with permission

 

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LeBlancProfilePhotoDave LeBlanc is a Captain with the Harwich, Massachusetts Fire Department. Dave entered the Fire Service in 1986 as a Call Firefighter with the Dennis Fire Department. He worked full time during the summers in Dennis, while attending the University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut. While at the University of New Haven, Dave studied Arson Investigation. He also was a volunteer with the Allingtown and West Haven Fire Districts in West Haven. He spent his sophomore year as a Live In student with the Allingtown Fire District. His education included internships with the Aetna Insurance Company and the Boston Fire Department Arson Squad.

In 1993 Dave went to work full-time with the Harwich Fire Department as a dispatcher. In 2000 he transferred into suppression and was promoted to Lieutenant in 2008. In addition to his regular duties, Dave also manages the Department’s Radio system, is responsible for conducting Fire Investigations, and assists in maintaining the computers systems.

Dave’s blog tends to focus on current day issues and maintaining a commitment to the ideals and principals that created the fire service, while keeping today’s firefighters safe.

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8 Comments

  • Ric Jorge says:

    I was there in 2002 when Pressler, Lombardo, Les Ennis, and Old G and a host of other FOOLS had their say at the 2nd Annual F.O.O.L.S. Convention.

    I was there for the standing ovation of brothers from across the country applauded each and every speaker that night. The Sense of unity, brotherhood, and pride was palpable among everyone present.

    I am sure no one present that weekend would have ever imagined “our” (make no mistake who coined these acronyms, it was the FOOLS) sayings would have such an impact on our brothers and sisters, or on fire service culture.

    Yet somehow the message has changed. Thank you for calling attention to it, many of us have privately had this conversation, but you called them out David, thank you for setting it straight. EGH is not a battle cry for cowards, it is a mantra honoring the fallen. it’s time this was met head on. Quit making excuses, do your job, or get the fuck out.

  • Rob Mitchell says:

    No better words have been spoken. Dave thank you for bringing this to the front. Ric you are right EGH is not a battle cry for Cowards.

  • Walter Lewis says:

    Amen Dave. I too, was at that same meeting with Ric and many others who understood what the coining of the phrase meant. And absolutely right, that phrase is been bastardized in the wrong context for more than a decade.
    None of us wish for a brother or sister firefighter to die. So safety police, relax. But if this offends you, then perhaps you should focus on training yourself, your crew or your department to be a better group to do the duty that a firefighter is expected to do- FIGHT FIRES! All too often this phrase and this thought is being used as an excuse not to do our jobs. It’s a shield to hide behind because we want to come home – which we deserve, but sometimes bad things happen. Our job is dangerous because we are here to protect the people against an enemy that all of mankind fears. And we should not do so blindly. We should be trained. We should be equipped. We should be staffed. And we should have some courage. Without those ingredients, we cannot do our jobs. What helps us have the courage is being prepared. Good tactics, good leadership, and good training should help you sway your fears and get your job done. Otherwise, like Dave suggested, buy a bunch of bulldozers and wrecking balls and get in the demolition business.

  • Steve says:

    Great words, if only we could put this into the thought process of all firefighters across the USA. We can and sooner or later we will, but to have those who think that the service owes them, should leave and make room for those who would enrich our departments, would be a glorious and endearing movement of faith and truth.

    So…for those weak minded, self-centered and always useless leeches, you know who you are….leave….leave the real company of public servants to make room for the ones ready to serve and protect.

  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    Thanks for the comments brothers. Ric you boiled the whole article down into one sentence.

    We may not always be able to make a difference, but it should because we couldn’t……not wouldn’t try.

  • Ron Ayotte says:

    Dave, allow me to quote one of your favorite phrases…
    Bing-freaking-o!

  • Matt says:

    FWIW, you fire guys aren’t the only ones suffering from this idea. Cops had the same problem for years at active shooter scenes. Even after Columbine the theory was that we should wait for the first 4 cops to get there before we went in. Thankfully a respected police trainer in Ohio basically said: what are we doing,we’re cops with guns and someone is actively killing people. Go get the bad guy, that’s what cops are supposed to do, fully acknowledging that one may die trying. It’s worked in more than one case too.

  • Mike F says:

    Well written. When people call they are having a bad day maybe the worst day of there lives. When a parent runs up to you in the street when you arrive on the scene you are there only hope. Like America the fire service is starting to lose its way. just remember this no one ever says ”oh good the cops are here”

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“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.”

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Comments
Bill Carey
What is Experience?
You're correct Ed. What did we do with that experience? Did we take as many lessons from as we could or did we simply file it away as a run in the logbook. Thank you, Bill
2014-10-30 12:55:18
Ed
What is Experience?
Excellent post. The same question may be framed for other than working on the nozzle (e.g., if delivering pump operator training). In addition, even if you went to a lot of fires on the nozzle or as the first in company officer, what did you do with that experience? Reflection and integration of the experience…
2014-10-30 12:37:50
Bill Carey
Wanted: Honest Discernment in Our Fire Service Discussions
Thank you Ed.
2014-10-22 14:26:50
Ed Hartin
Wanted: Honest Discernment in Our Fire Service Discussions
Excellent article Bill!
2014-10-14 12:47:14
Ron Ayotte
Complacency and Awareness: History Lessons from the Mog and Rangers
Bill.. I agree with Tony C. The situations we respond to sometimes reuire that we tune and tweak SOPs and SOGs "on the fly" in order to complete the tasks given. Fire doesn't care what is stated in our SOPs/SOGs.
2014-10-11 22:14:29
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