Newly crowned parents are beacons of joy. They send out birth announcements and take pictures of their newest bundle. They advertise their new arrival. They welcome all the attention. Along with attention come a great many gifts. That is a good thing because clothes and diapers are not free. Formula and swings are not free. If you ask your mother, she will tell you that she had significant "Labor Pains" bringing you into the world. As you grew, the price of labor shifted to always making dinner and washing your laundry. School lunches and a new bike. Jackets, hats and baby needs new shoes.
Transportation was necessary to and from every place you wanted to go. Gasoline prices were lower then but I suspect they still had an impact on the family budget. Your father would get off work early to get to a game and made sure your homework was done so you would get good grades. The benefits of which might be a scholarship to college and a brighter future for you. When you were old enough to drive, how many times did you leave the car with less fuel than when you got it? Did Dad ever slip you a twenty when you were going out and he knew you were broke?
Did you go right to work? Were there choices made about your future? Perhaps you honored us as citizens and joined the military. Thank you for serving. Maybe you went to school. College is an enormous expense.
You enter life owing nothing but you are in a great debt to your parents. Along the way, huge sums of money are spent on you. They may or may not add to your worth. One thing is for sure. Your cost is still less than your value. You are a great bargain.
Then it happens. You meet the one. Everything you ever dreamed of. The best part is that they see you the same way. Life is good. You get married, incurring the same amount of debt as that of some small nations. Would we make good parents? Let's give it a go... children bless your home. You do for them all that your parents did for you. They see you as the most important thing in the world, which is no small responsibility. To them you are priceless. Think about that word. No price. Value beyond price. Worth that can not be put into numbers. Not worthless... worth everything and more.
Now, why do we put a "sale" sign on our lives? As firefighters we are put in positions of inherent danger. We chose our profession. We want to save lives. We will risk a lot to save a savable life. And risk a little to save a savable property. Why then are we selling ourselves out at less than our cost by putting our lives in jeopardy on property that is already lost. Aren't we worth more than that?
We need to stop slashing the price on our lives. Our worth is more than that of a derelict building. We are worth more than the pile of rubble that is taken to the dump after a building is torn down. If we save a life and in turn lose our own, our value is in the life saved. If we lose our life at the scene of a building that is already lost with no human life at stake, how do we recuperate the cost?
I urge you to evaluate your life's worth. It can not summarized in numbers or charts. Choose life. If you are a firefighter, be safe on the job. Watch for possible traps. Listen to the guys who have been in those situations and are telling you to back off. Sometimes the bravest and most courageous thing to do is back out of a bad situation.
First due officers need to apply real world risk/ benefit analysis to the scene. What are the goals as incident commander? Do they add up to the price we will pay in the lives of the firefighters working with us? Safety is paramount.
We owe it to our firefighters to get them home. We owe it to ourselves to go home. We owe it to their families and to ours. We have a big responsibility to provide an accurate accounting of our efforts. Figure the cost for doing business. Never sell yourselves or your people short. Do not discount our collective worth. Leave the "sale" signs where they belong, at the stores. Now go and thank your parents.
Jameson R. Ayotte is a Fire Lieutenant/Paramedic with the Amesbury, MA, Fire Department. He began his career in EMS in 1994 and entered the fire service in 2002. Lieutenant Ayotte has been a company officer since 2005 and is the shift commander of group 1. He is a member of the Amesbury Fire Honor Guard.
Lieutenant Ayotte holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology and an M.S. in Physical Therapy from UMass-Lowell. He is a certified Fire Officer I and Fire Instructor I. He also instructs Anatomy & Physiology and Medical Terminology. He lives in Amesbury with his wife Melanie and their two sons. He can be reached at email@example.com.