The fire service, as we all know, is a proud profession that is rich in history. We are a unique group of individuals who are looked up to by young and old and who kids dress up like for Halloween every year. We are in the public eye both on and off duty. Our actions are continuously being monitored and scrutinized.
In the day of instant information via the internet and text messages and mutli-media messages, we can be recorded in the heat of the moment and transmitted over the web in a matter of seconds. Whether we are performing a rescue or performing a bone head act at the grocery store, we are being watched.
How we act on and off duty is a direct reflection of us as individuals, an organization and as a profession. Like it or not, the fact is that we represent all of us at all times. There is no differentiation between volunteer or paid, we are viewed as firefighters to those on the outside.
I like to watch Youtube.com for training videos and other fire related clips that I can use as a teaching tool. I can’t believe how some of our own act when out in the public eye. It wasn’t too long ago that we were hearing about firefighters using roman candles to shoot it our of their a#$. We have to be aware of what we represent and how we want to be seen.
We need to act appropriate, not only on duty, but off duty as well. Most of us wear fire department apparel frequently and it identifies us as someone in the fire service, whether it is department specific or not, it is easy to pick out firefighters by what they are wearing. So, if you are involved in an altercation or are stumbling drunk, you may become an easy target and may be placing a negative view of “those firefighters.”
How you treat people and how you use your respected position counts. It matters. But, don’t think that this is just your responsibility. Your
officer is directly responsible for your actions as well. Some would argue that the officer cannot be held accountable for what you do on your time off, and to a point you would be right, but the officer should be developing his people into future role models.
The officer has a responsibility to convey his expectations as soon as that new firefighter arrives. Not only his expectations at the firehouse, but how pride and honor and integrity get left at the door when you go off duty. New and current firefighters must be reminded by telling and example of what we represent as firefighters. This is the officers responsibility and it molds his firefighters into responsible fire service “professionals” and people.
I know that there are many who disagree with much of this, and I expect that. But, lets face it, you don’t hear about Joe Blow was involved in a DUI accident and mention that he was a plumber. If that person is a firefighter, it is mentioned and that is not good for any of us. The more it happens, the more our reputation is damaged as a whole group.
We want parents to continue to tell their kids that if they are in trouble or need anything that they can call a firefighter. We want to be revered in our communities, but we have to continue to earn it, not just expect it.
Officers, take the time to be a mentor and positive role model. Create an environment that makes your people ashamed to act inappropriately. We are a noble profession and we are and should be proud. We do a great deal of good things and we have great people making a difference. Be diligent and make your community proud of you and your organization.