Is pride good for the fire service? Do firefighters have things to be proud of? Is pride ever bad for the fire service? These are questions that should be examined by individual firefighters and by fire departments. Perhaps it never occurred to firefighters to question the issue of firefighter pride. This is brief examination of the pride factor in the fire service. The answers are not readily in this article. The answers are in every firefighter's heart.
At this time in the history of the fire service, after 9-11, with the tremendous sacrifice and work of the firefighters of New York and the Washington D.C. area; firefighters are revered nation-wide. Firefighters are recognized for the dangerous and nasty work they do, more than ever before (and yet, maybe not enough). Firefighting is one of those occupations that take care of the dirty work for society. So, is firefighting something to be proud of? Yes it is, but with some qualifications.
In the Oxford Dictionary the first definition of pride is, "a feeling of elation or satisfaction at achievement, qualities, or possessions, etc., that do one credit." The second definition is, "a high or overbearing opinion of one's worth or importance." Which definition of pride do firefighters want to be associated with?
First, let us look at our soldiers who serve in Iraq. Their sacrifices in lives, being away from their families, and physical and mental trauma, for very low pay is something that is not recognized enough. How do we compare to them? Should a comparison be made between firefighters and soldiers? No, but I bring up the point that there are many other brave, sacrificing people in our country, in many occupations, so as to bring perspective to what we do.
What do firefighters have to be proud of? Should they be proud only because of the symbols associated with firefighting? Riding in the engine, wearing the helmet, and wearing the t-shirt with the Maltese cross are things that identify who we are. I propose we have nothing to be proud of unless we do our job.
Doing our job well should be the first goal of any firefighter or fire department. Training to be the best is something that cannot be dismissed. If you or your department is not training, training to the point where every firefighter is an expert in their position; providing the best service to your citizens, then you have nothing to be proud of.
Getting on the scene and doing your job well is something to be proud of. How often do we fool ourselves when the incident does not go as well as it should have, but the citizens praise our efforts. They do not know, but we know. Yes, emergency scenes are unpredictable, dangerous, and the unexpected happens. I am talking about when we know we could have done better if our company was better trained, if we had gained knowledge from a training program, or we had provided better leadership to our firefighters.
As a company officer do you do a complete size-up on every scene? As a Chief or Deputy Chief do you efficiently manage your department's budget and resources and fight for better equipment, training and fair pay for your firefighters, balancing the two? As a firefighter do you know your job and work constantly on being better? Do you delegate responsibilities and work you should take care of or learn to do? Do you delegate responsibility to develop your subordinates? In any position are you accountable to your firefighters, department, and your citizens?
We have a lot to be proud of. On every medical call treat each patient and person with respect. Treat the alcohol overdose street person with the same respect as the elderly grandmother. On the fourth call after midnight, provide all the medical treatment for your patient that is necessary. On the second alarm structure fire have your company complete assignments as command assigned, not as you decide. Stop the freelancing and competing with other companies at the incident. Work as a team. If you want some productive competition, challenge sister companies to training evolutions. Have the safety of your firefighters as your number one priority. Be professional on the scene.
We do amazing things as firefighters. We see and are immersed in exciting, rewarding, and dangerous activities. Prepare to do your job well. Train throughout your career to be better at your job every day. From line firefighters, to company officers, to district chiefs, to administrative officers; prepare and perform the best you can. If you do that, then you have something to be proud of, and, more importantly, the citizens who you work for have a firefighter and a fire department to be proud of. Most firefighters and fire departments strive to be the best. But, we all can do better. Perform to credit yourself, your department, and the fire service. Make that a part of your department's proud tradition.