Condition Yellow? It's About Us

Firefighter Safety Following the Webster Shooting


Tragedy has hit our ranks again.

What is horribly perverse to this episode is the fact that they were responding to another call for help. Firefighters are genuinely the embodiment of all that is good in our society. Over the course of my career I have seen my fellow brothers and sisters as the defining physical manifestation of all that is virtuous. My heart is so heavy with the loss of two more of our own due to the senseless, selfish act of another human being in Webster, NY. This shouldn't be happening!

Every day firefighters and emergency service workers from around this country awake and take to the streets to simply make a difference in someone else's life. They simply want to reach out a hand to people who, for that moment in their life, are experiencing the worst day in their life. Every one of those workers went without reservation, expectation of reward, or fear for their own well-being. None of us expect tragedy to absorb us into it's embrace as unsuspecting victims. None of us expect to become part and parcel to the events we so willingly respond to. We are there to mitigate these times of crisis. Neither one of these two public servants or their wounded brothers awoke that day suspecting things to unfold as they did. No, they merely filled up their "to go" cups with fresh coffee...hopefully, kissed and hugged their loved ones good-bye… and went off to work; went off to work with the same things on their minds as you and I; kids, school, wives, girlfriends, bills, family, the job, the Christmas and holiday shopping still left to complete. Yes, all of those unfinished things left for tomorrow… 

But what if tomorrow never comes? What becomes of the "unfinished"? What becomes of the question...could this have been prevented?

We've talked in our hazard and risk classes of staying in the mindset of "condition yellow." We've talked about taking every step necessary and staying in the mindset of "worst case scenario." We've stressed the importance of trying to be one step ahead of what (tragedy) could happen.

But, you know what folks? We don't know. We can only seek out the tangibles, hold them dearly and hope that the intangibles don't have a negative impact on what we do know.

The world has evil in it...that's a fact. The human condition has become distracted and as a result spawned a numb co-existence to that evil. Would the mindset of "condition yellow" even have prevented this tragedy from happening? Who knows and far-be-it for me to be so simplistic to think that it would.

Folks, I find great joy in knowing that there are still a majority of good people in the world. I think we as responders have to realize that. I think we also have to have a realistic reason of suspicion on every call we go on as well. We also need to realize that the performance of the "technical imperatives" of our jobs are not in and of themselves therapeutic. No, it's the human side of what we do that has the greater healing value. Sometimes that healing is more necessary to us as responders, as opposed to the patient or fire victims we aid. I only say that because yes, there are good people in the world, and yes firefighters, police officers, and EMS workers are proud members of the "good."

So what do we do? How do we keep doing this job? How do we continue to acknowledge the good in our community? It is simple folks - stay competent and stay alert when you continue to answer the call. Continue to be the defining member of "the good." And probably more important, don't let your service to others become collateral damage in a world where there are sometimes no answers to the question.  

Stay healthy, stay alert, stay proud! Continue to make a difference every day. As for tomorrow, do something positive, productive, and purposeful today.

Thanks for reading. This was good for me and hopefully all of you too.

SKIP WILSON has been in the fire service for 35 years, the last 24 with the Littleton, CO, Fire Rescue. He's currently a shift safety and training officer and also the training officer for Jefferson-Como Fire Rescue in Colorado. He holds a BS in emergency medical administration.