There are some really basic rules in the world of fire. Before you board the fire truck, you need to know what you are doing. If you want to perform your job correctly, you must train to the standards established for you. If you want your team to succeed, you cannot leave it to the other guy. Everyone must pull equally on the oars of you boat, and most importantly. Should it be your goal to have a culture of safety in your fire department, you need to be the one who provides the example for your people.
The key to success in all of this is based upon the concept of using knowledge as the foundation for all that you do. Many times during my life it has been my misfortune to work for those ignorant souls who felt that early on in their careers they had learned everything they would ever need to know to do their duty within the fire service. They have two solutions for everything and they only use those two; usually with very poor results.
Frankly, people like this scare the heck out of me. There is one simple fact I have learned over my past four decades in the fire service. Not a day goes by when there is not something which new presents itself for me to learn. Let me suggest that there is one simple key to being an effective firefighter, company officer, or chief-level officer.
Let me lay it out for you right here and right now. It is my strident recommendation to you that it is critical for you to pay attention to what you are doing. You need to pay attention to the world around you and you must pay attention to the results of how you perform your duties in the wide range of emergency situations you encounter. You must not become complacent and let things start to slip. In our world, complacency can lead to serious injury or death.
Let me offer a historical perspective on this. My brother and I were taught as children that knowledge is power. My parents spent a great deal of time reinforcing that particular concept. Throughout the course of my adult life it has been my experience that this has been a concept which has helped me to stay on top of issues that could influence events which could have an impact on the fire and emergency service world.
Watching the television news is one of my favorite pastimes. Reading the newspaper is also an activity which consumes a great deal of my time each morning. It has been a long-held personal belief that I need to keep abreast of the events which are spinning around out there in the world around us.
According to many in the media world, people like me are part of a passing parade. These people say that folks like me who pay attention to the world are shrinking segment of our society. By golly I sure hope not. Let me urge each of you to take the time to stay on top of events as they unfold around the world. It is one of the best ways of preparing for what you and I do in the emergency service world. You can profit from the mistakes and accidents which have happened to other folks.
In line with this, I was watching a sports report on television the other day. Yet another high-priced, sure-fire piece of egotistical professional sports talent was copping a plea as to why their team had lost. This person said something which really caught my attention. In the midst of being hailed as the second coming of Babe Ruth, this pampered, monolithic moron had the audacity to say that he and his teammates had simply had a bad day.
A bad day! Maybe it is just me, but if I was paying someone millions of dollars to do something as simple as throw a ball or hit a ball, I would be hopping mad to hear my brain trust sit in front of a group of reporters and say that their team was the victim of a bad day.
They had a bad day my butt. September 1, 1939 was a bad day when the Germans attacked Poland. December 7, 1941 was a bad day. That was when we were attacked by the Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor. September 11, 2001 was a bad day, when the terrorists hit us in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Losing a ball game because of a lack of talent, effort, concern, or enthusiasm does not constitute a bad day.
My friends, you and I are not allowed the privilege of having a bad day. The tasks our emergency service organizations are required to perform leave little room for error. Countless hours are spent each year creating operational procedures which are designed to allow us to perform our dangerous duties as safely as possible. More time is devoted to training and drilling on the skills we need to hone as close to perfection as humans are allowed to get.
We need to be on top of our game every time we head out to perform our chosen duties. There is no real margin for error in a field of endeavor where the penalties for having a 'bad day' are death and/or serious personal injuries. Perhaps the ongoing relationship I have had with highway safety for more than a decade now has made me more sensitive to the fragility of life.
Each time we ride forth to do our duties, death is but a blinking of an eye away from our friends and us. I guess it was the geographical closeness of the latest line-of-duty death I posted on this website which has grabbed my attention and shaken it violently. The area where this tragedy occurred is one that I pass a couple of times each week as I go on my merry way to my Masonic Lodge or to my Monday band rehearsal.
New Jersey State Trooper Marc Castellano, of Howell Township, New Jersey, was struck on Interstate 195 right here in the township. Trooper Castellano died of his injuries at the Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune on Sunday June 6. He leaves a wife, two children, and a loving family to mourn his death at the far too premature age of 29 years.
My friends, Sunday June 6, 2010 was a bad day. A dedicated public servant was killed in the line of duty on the highways of my community. Our prayers go out to his family, friends, and the members of the New Jersey State Police.