Ignorance: The Wrong Lubricant for Your Fire Department's Machinery

Harry Carter asks if you've ever met a person who practiced the fine art of "active ignorance;" those who are unwilling to step up and take advantage of the opportunities to learn the proper way.


A number of years ago, the Adelphia, NJ, Fire Company was faced with an important decision. They could continue the manner in which they had been conducting drills for many years. They were something you had to do because the constitution and by-laws said you must do. Or the fire company could come into the 21st Century and make training a central focus for the organization. Thanks to some really enlightened folks, they chose to do the latter.

We train for the way in which our fire department operations are to be conducted. We put the knowledge out there and encourage our folks to go for it. More than that, we have a nucleus of younger members who pride themselves on their knowledge and their abilities. This culture of training is now part of our organizational mores and our people pride themselves on being able to do things correctly.

Let me also suggest that part of the aura of camaraderie in our fire company revolves around this culture of knowledge acquisition. It is truly pleasing for an old-timer like me to see how well the younger officers in the company have done in creating, building, and nurturing this culture of knowledge.  It is still a tough thing to come up with two fresh drills each month, but our officers are up to the task.

The key has been not to push knowledge, but to ensure that it is available to be seen, acknowledged, and acquired. However, the real rewards come from seeing people gravitate to the world of knowledge. It has been said that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink. What we have done is taken the horse to the water and then surrounded him (or her) with a whole bunch of other horses who can be seen drinking the water. More often than not the non-drinking horse will mimic the behavior of those around them. That is how it has worked here in Adelphia.

Let me close by suggesting that you cannot cure ignorance if your interest in self-learning ceases. If people see that you are no longer interested in knowledge, they will begin to doubt the validity of the message you are pushing. My friend, learning is a life-long undertaking.

If you count my time in kindergarten, I have been learning for well over 61 years. I want you to know that as I step up to collect my first social security check in July, I will still be seeking to improve my understanding of the world around me. Let me suggest that the best way to counteract the effects of the sludge of ignorance on your organizational machine is to become a knowledge merchant within your agency. Let me suggest that by bringing the light and warmth of knowledge to bear upon the dark places where ignorance dwells, you can free up the sludge within the engine of your organization and allow the lubricant known as knowledge to move freely throughout. 

Let me suggest that a failure to address ignorance can eventually lead to the death of your organization. Why not join my friends and I in the Adelphia Fire Company. Embrace knowledge and shun ignorance.