Be a Student of Your Profession

We should all realize just how lucky we are to be in the fire service. Whether you are a career firefighter in a midsize department, a volunteer lieutenant in a small community or a chief officer in a large urban department, you know how fortunate you are to be in a great profession.

Knowing this, simply feeling good about being a member of a fire department is not enough. I don’t know if anyone has told you this, but there is a cost, an “admission fee” to this exclusive group of people called the fire service and it is this: you must become and remain a student of the job. That’s it! Sounds simple, no? For some of us it is and for others it’s not. So what does this mean? How can you become a student of the job? Let’s take a look at several answers.

When I use the word “student,” some of the Bravest start to get nervous. Does this mean we have to study? Well, yes and no. What it means is you should develop and nurture a continuous state of inquiry concerning your duties as a firefighter, officer or chief. You should be as interested in the activities and tactics that you are involved in at the firehouse as you are in Major League Baseball or cross-country skiing. Now we all have lots of people and activities in our lives that are not and never will be related to the firehouse, and that’s great, but we also have an obligation to ourselves and our fellow firefighters to be the best at what we do when the chips are down. Here are a few ways you can be a student of the job.

First and foremost, read! Dozens of publications are available to all of us that can explain and clarify what we are already doing as well as introduce us to new ideas that we have not been exposed to yet. This magazine that you are holding right now has literally hundreds of new concepts and ideas, tactics and philosophies every month. And there are many other monthly magazines and periodicals that do the same thing. Some firefighters read these magazines at the firehouse and others receive them at home. Wherever it is, pick it up and read it. You will find yourself making copies of some articles to distribute to your firefighters and you will also find that you can’t even finish other articles because they have nothing to do with what you are interested in. That’s fine, but you will never discover that until you start turning the pages.

The next activity that you need to get involved with is outside training. What I mean by “outside” is training that is being conducted and hosted by organizations and fire departments other than your own. If you Google “fire service training” along with your state or city, you may be surprised by the result. Dozens of seminars and training conferences are being held in or near just about every city in America. Some have a specific theme such as firefighter survival or private-dwelling fire operations, but others may have several instructors presenting programs on a variety of subjects over the course of a day. These instructors are from across the country, from both volunteer and career departments, and they know their stuff. The fact is that you need to know their stuff too. So call up a few of your firehouse buddies and take a road trip to the next fire training seminar in your area.

Another fantastic resource for fire service training is the Internet. Yes, I know this is reading too, but it is a different kind of reading and a different kind of learning. Again, there are many great fire service websites and all of them have training components. You can go online at 9 o’clock some night, surf through a dozen different sites looking for information on roof cutting and collect three lesson plans, five short videos and dozens of real-life photos of roof-cutting operations. All of this material, enough for a month’s worth of drills at your firehouse, will cost you nothing.

These are just three simple ways that you can start to become a “student of the job.” Once you start reading and attending seminars and visiting the numerous websites, you will discover two things. First, you will see that an amazing amount of information is out there about the job we do and how we can do it better. Second, you will discover that you are broadening your horizons and becoming a better, safer and more professional member of the fire service.