Secondly, whatever happened to personal commitment and ownership of our capabilities and shortcomings? I am a huge proponent of self-realization, and I have some close mentors that I rely on from time to time to keep my focus in check. However, all of us need to remember that the dynamics of our profession and the tools and techniques we use to deal with these events are evolving and improving every day. It would only make sense that our training evolves and improves at the same pace. For example, reach back into your memory banks and think about the last time you went to a class on building construction. Here’s a hint; if you can’t remember, it has been much too long. We are constantly hearing about changes in concepts and materials, and seeing them up close at construction sites helps fill the void in our training. What about fire behavior? We are firefighters…fire is in our name. But add up the hours a candidate spends between Firefighter I and II and look to see how much of it focuses on fire behavior…in my state, in over 250 hours of training, fire behavior gets three hours. That’s right, three hours. Fire is our first name, and we only spend a little over one percent of our initial training discussing how fire behaves (photo 3). Does that sound “good enough” to you?
Preparing for Promotion
Fire officers are charged with a significant amount of responsibility, both on and off the emergency scene. One vital responsibility is the overall training of the company members. Continually polishing the skills of being a firefighter take time, patience and resources. It is vital that the company officer take the skills that each company member brings with them and get them to efficiently work together under stress. This training doesn’t end with graduation from the Academy; it is continued throughout one’s career. The company officer is saddled with ensuring the skills of the company members are up to speed and correct; how can the officer do that with training that is just “good enough”? Furthermore, this duty is multi-faceted: Along with preparing the troops for battle, the officer must also prepare oneself to be able to make accurate, proficient decisions on the emergency scene while leading the charge into a hostile environment (photo 4). Firefighters spend countless hours of study time in the trade books and research materials preparing for an upcoming promotional exam, and many of them are successful in elevating their careers. What happens after the promotion? Continuing education is not reserved for only the rank and file, so to speak, it is also a critical task that all department members, including the officers, accept and participate in. Ours is a profession where we do not get to practice our craft every day we show up to work, which is all the more reason that members accept the position of being a lifetime student of the occupation we chose.
A wise Fire Chief once said that the bravest act a man can make is becoming a firefighter; the rest is in the line of duty. This duty requires firefighters to put themselves in harm’s way, all for the good of the public and our fellow man. A “good enough” stage for this level of responsibility just does not exist. This assignment requires constant attention to detail, and continued education and calibration of fireground tactics, strategy and on-scene operations. As we enter into a fresh new year, I challenge each and every one of us to look within our own skills and abilities, and truly identify what is “good enough,” and what needs some work.
Until next time, stay focused and stay safe.
MICHAEL P. DALEY is a lieutenant and training officer with the Monroe Township, NJ, Fire District No. 3, and is an instructor with the Middlesex County Fire Academy, where he is responsible for rescue training curriculum development. Mike has an extensive background in fire service operations and holds degrees in business management and public safety administration. He was named a Master Fire Instructor from the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Mike serves as a rescue officer with the New Jersey Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 and is a managing member for Fire Service Performance Concepts, a consultant group that provides assistance and support to fire departments with their training programs and course development. You can reach Michael by e-mail at:FSEducator@aol.com.