He said that they had stretched the line to the door and his heart was pounding because he knew we had a good fire. While he was at the apartment door waiting for me to return he felt the heat and saw all the smoke rolling out the door and he was apprehensive. The way he explained it was, when he saw me walking back to get them, my coat was not completely buttoned and I was speaking to him without a SCBA face piece on, and speaking slowly and calmly, he was reassured. I know, not smart; coat unbuttoned and no face piece on, but the point was, the way I spoke and what he sensed from my body language was what gave him confidence. He felt that if he just came out of there and he is not excited, "how bad could it be?" "What am I worried about, he's coming in with me."
My casual appearance and attitude in hindsight might have gotten us hurt. The last message you want to send is that firefighting is not dangerous, but it showed how experience and non-verbal communication will affect the actions of your firefighters. And yes, there was some part of this story that had to be spoken. Speaking in a calming tone can help keep the excitement level from getting ratcheted up.
Fire service leaders must always remember, even when you don't say anything, people are listening and watching. Someone will always be watching no matter what you do. Anyone who doesn't believe it has never been caught on videotape.
Comments are always welcomed. You can e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe.
CHRISTOPHER FLATLEY, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a 20-year veteran of the FDNY and a lieutenant currently assigned to Ladder Company 21 in Manhattan. Chris has twice served as chief of the Blauvelt, NY, Volunteer Fire Company and is currently the assistant chief and training coordinator. He is a nationally certified Fire Instructor 1 and is an instructor at the Rockland County, NY, Fire Training Center and holds a degree in fire protection technology. He is a Master Exercise Practitioner on the Exercise Design Team through the Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness. You can reach Chris by e-mail at: email@example.com.