You must remember that ours is a very demanding and ever-changing field of endeavor. It is hard to believe after all of my years in the service, but there is still something new coming around the corner at each of us. Whether it involves the research into what we do, the latest tools or some new form of technology, there is plenty for each of us to learn.
Our fire service is still a place where the basic skills must be continually studied and their use reinforced on the drill ground. Hard years of experience have taught me that you cannot stretch a hoseline once, or raise and place a ladder once and consider yourself an expert. You must drill continually. In addition, you need to continually practice the manner in which the pump on your fire engine is engaged, and the water moved through the hose lines.
Another of the great fallacies of our field of endeavor involves the supposition that the best firefighter will make the best leader. I am here to tell you that this is work of pure fiction. Capable firefighters are necessary if we are to get our work done on the fireground. However, being a leader involves one heck of a lot more than merely going to a boatload of emergency incidents.
Another of the traits that I see running rampant among the 20-minutes wonders is the push for power, position, and prestige which they make years many years before their experience would dictate such advancement. The push for immediate knowledge and instantaneous gratification is just one more aspect of the everyday world which is forcing its way through our doors. Lest you think I am railing against change let me assure you that this is not the case. None of us can stop change.
However we cannot allow the creation of a mindset within the fire service which revolves around the belief that instant gratification and instantaneous power and position are good things. I say this for the simple reason that we would simply be setting ourselves up for a great and massive organizational failure if we were to allow this to happen.
There are a number of factors which need to be considered at this point. Each of which forms a part of the overall fire service operational triangle:
Each of these taken by all by itself is an insufficient foundation for success. Many have been the well-trained people with who I have worked who were not highly educated. Let me stress that all of us can operate in this environment if the people in the organization are willing to listen to the voices of experience and reason. However, when training can be supplemented by education and experience, the road to the future becomes a bit smoother.
Here is the ideal sequence of affairs for preparing our people, at least as I see it:
· Find and recruit the right people
· Recruit training under a well-trained staff
· Mentorship by a veteran during the initial work assignment
· A guided system of education in the many aspects of the fire service
· The use of experience in a positive manner, viz. critiques after each incident to identify the good things as well as the problems
· Re-reading of the educational materials as a way of reinforcing the good things and overcoming the bad things which were identified during the critique.
· Making the whole process a continuing circle of learning, doing, critiquing and retraining.
No one should be exempt from their part in this loop of learning. There is no such thing as a well-trained, twenty-minute wonder. Each of us who wishes to excel must understand the demands which are made up us in the areas of learning, performing, and improving. The key methods which we should all consider employing are two-way dialogue, practical reasoning, active listening, and the simple act of sharing.
It may seem trite to tell you all that there is no "I" in we, but that is as simple as it gets. These "twenty-minute" wonders act as though the world revolves around them and the minimal amount of knowledge they have absorbed during the minimal amount of time they have been amongst us.