Our chosen profession is one steeped in tradition. We are proud to don the Maltese Cross and place fire related logos in every conceivable place. Patches, embroidered shirts and a slew of those "hero" shirts are worn with all sorts of phrases indicating our love of the job, riding fast or the brotherhood.
At first glance, one can easily see that people involved in this job are passionate about it. I am passionate about it too. I believe that there is nobility in service. Dedicating your life towards helping others is a worthwhile choice.
Having the benefit of the general public's gratitude based on your choice of job is both exhilarating and humbling. People give you respect because of your job, regardless of how good you are at it. They do so no matter the level of your experience. They confer their feelings on to you because of the traditional role that firefighters have played in society.
The tradition based society, that the brotherhood is, has given us many great things. We pay homage to those that have given their lives in service to the country and those that they serve locally. We remember with pride the rank and file that have worn down the path to the engines and ladders we work on today. Their dedicated service provides direction for us as we look to the future and refer to the past.
We see what worked. We learn from mistakes and teach others. Part of our tradition is training. As a personal responsibility, many of us dedicate countless hours towards making firefighters safer and better educated.
One negative thing about tradition is the phrase that is spoken most often in jest, after an enthusiastic member of the department attends new classes and brings that material home… "We don't do it that way here." The next most often stated phrase is: "Two hundred years of tradition unimpeded by progress."
This needs to change. Culturally, we need to change. Our tradition needs to change. It is imperative that we adjust to a new reality.
Much like the newlyweds who must choose where to spend their holiday dinner and thus change what was once a tradition, we too must choose. They create a new tradition. It is time for us to do the same.
After reading Chief Doug Cline's article, Overhauling a Training Program, one item really resonated for a long time. After reviewing the 16 Life Safety Initiatives offered by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, he asked five questions. The second one, "What are we training on? (realistic or cool guy stuff)" really made me think.
Our business is sometimes dangerous but, most often it is mundane. It is sometimes exciting but, routinely boring. We work long hours waiting for the call to perform and use what we have learned.
While we are sometimes exhilarated working the exciting calls, the truth is, more often calls are simple service calls or ones that will never be sexy enough to make the news. These "routine" calls are inspections, lift assists, non-life threatening medical aid calls or any one of a thousand items we are dispatched to that does not require rapid intervention teams, jaws or high angle rescue.
In the near future, our service will see less fire. As students of history, we can plainly see that new construction codes have reduced the frequency of fires already. The push is on for adoption of residential sprinklers. This will further reduce our calls for a "worker."
Although this may sound like heresy to some, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has let it be known that this is a good thing. Since training is aimed at reducing firefighter injury and mortality, having less fires will reduce the potential for both.
Now on to training and Chief Cline's question; "What are we training on? (Realistic or cool guy stuff)." Simple question, not so simple answer.
Several excellent training classes and courses work to promote firefighter safety by instructing firefighters to self-rescue. They teach really cool techniques that may in fact save a firefighters life. These include basic exercises like the long lug out drill and low-profiling an SCBA to escape a tight space. Usually they incorporate some sort of rappelling and head-first bailouts on a ladder.