Chaos: The Dangerous Opportunity

One of the cool things about getting older is that you get a different kind of perspective.

I don't know about you, but looking back on my life, every opportunity came to me just after I had hit what I thought was the bottom in the midst of some kind of chaos, and possibly, danger.Most of the time, I brought myself to it. It was usually some kind of necessary lesson.

This has probably happened to all of us at some time in our lives. The question is: what do you do with the lesson? Where can it take us? That is up to each of us in the fire service.

I was at a retreat for men last weekend and it was just eight of us. We were sharing our stories with each other - all of the things and people in our lives that molded us into the men we had become. It was an amazing experience and quite spiritual.

I was asked why, after 60 years, I was still so passionate about the fire service. There are as many answers to this question as there are firefighters, fire protection engineers, public fire educators, fire marshals and the myriad of fire protection professionals in the global brother and sisterhood.

For me, the fire service was everything: love, pride, humility, awe and wonder all rolled into one dynamic experience, regardless of the activity. As long as it had to do with the fire service, that's all I cared about. I was as happy being a firefighter as I was a commissioner as long as I was around it, in it, and with it. When you love something that much you usually find ways to make it better because you not only want to protect it: you want to see it grow and prosper in its mission. You love it! And it's the same today.

Many of us in the fire service are in the midst of a chaotic time. But, we are trained to deal with chaos, complexity and what can appear to be totally impossible situations. So it should come as no surprise that we have the brains and strength to deal with just about anything. Many of us thrive on it regardless of our roles. It is our mission that gives us the guidance and the platform not only to bring us through the chaos, but to create an even better and different future. Great fire departments are comprised of great firefighters and officers. Every firefighter has the capacity to lead given an environment that engenders that deep love of the profession, allowing contribution to the organization from individual strength. The citizens we protect are the vital assets - the humanity - that gives us the opportunity to serve.

This doesn't just benefit our own communities, it contributes to global society, especially now through social connectivity and collaboration. What your department does can effect a department in another country in an instant. All it takes is one best practice.

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is an example. It began as a pilot program in Merseyside, England, and it is now a growing operational discipline in a number of departments in the United States through the introduction and leadership of Vision 20/20, the dynamic fire prevention movement. There are many chiefs today that recognize the opportunities for their departments inherent in the chaos of change. Those departments, those firefighters and those chief officers will define the future of the profession. What an amazing opportunity!