Power of the Badge: It is Time to Stop Feeling Helpless

As with most emotions that occur in the fire service we can’t describe it, but we all know it because it seems to be with us every day when we turn on the television – helplessness. As firefighters we are action orientated with one purpose and one...

Think about that story and the impact of one person getting involved, of having a simple conversation and showing even the slightest bit of concern, and the difference it made in the life of that young boy. Has anyone done that for you? I am willing to bet three quarters of the firefighters in uniform today are doing this job because somewhere along their life a firefighter made an impression and/or was a role model.

Will your community be the next to suffer a violent tragedy such as what occurred in Newtown? Who will be the perpetrator? Is he walking by the closed bay doors of your station right now? Was she standing in the park at the local picnic and watched from a distance as you and you crew sat on the bumper of your apparatus? Are they going to be in your next community event? Will anyone or anything influence the possible future tragic decisions they will make? Are they desperately looking for a simple act of compassion, understanding, or to be noticed? Who better to offer that reassurance than the most respected, revered, honored, trusted, heroic people in their community – firefighters?

We have no way for sure to know these things; just as we have no way on knowing if any level of involvement would have derailed the tragic events in Connecticut. But we don’t know and that’s why we have to try! That’s why we need to be involved in our community at every level, and when we are out in our uniforms either at an official event or simply stopping at the grocery store to buy dinner ingredients why we need to make the most of it. We need to get involved with our community action groups, and if there is none, we need to consider starting one; not just to address violence but any problem plaguing our communities.

As firefighters we have much to offer and we have the willing attention of a community that trusts us unconditionally, and this is an honor bestowed upon us that we can never take lightly or for granted, and an honor we need to earn every day. That badge is not simply a professional designation or the symbol of the government we serve. It is a shield which reflects the glimmer of protection, hope, and a people who care unconditionally and without reservation to race, economic status, gender, personal preferences, social standing or popularity. It represents people who will answer when called and help anyone in need – always and without question or personal agenda.

No we can’t prevent every fire, every accident, or every act of deliberate tragedy; but paying any attention to the odds or turning away from insurmountable threats and challenges has never been why we put on our badge or our way of life. It’s time to stop feeling helpless and do what we are all programmed to do, to take action and to protect and save. It can be as simple as one person, one simple conversation, one wave hello, or one smile. It is as simple as using that badge and trust and getting involved

Firefighters once again our communities are in fear, and they are looking for answers and are in need of heroes. And once again they desperately need see us stand up and grab their torch of fear and say "we got this."

DANIEL BYRNE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a firefighter/paramedic, with the Burton Fire District in Burton, SC. A 20-year veteran of the emergency services, he holds both an associate and bachelors degree in fire science, is a National Fire Academy Alumni, and a veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm war with the U.S. Marine Corps. Daniel is the recipient of local and state awards for public educations and relations. Daniel is moderator of the Fire Prevention and Life Safety forums on Firehouse. You can reach Daniel by e-mail at dbyrne.burtonfd@gmail.com.