Pennington: What Have You Done?

What have you done for your department today? Have you done something today to make your department better? I had never really thought of this concept and how to apply it until I had the honor of interviewing Kentland Fire Chief Tony Kelleher. I asked the chief how he kept his crews so motivated. He went on to explain that each member asks themselves this very question. “Even if you overhauled the engine of the ladder truck yesterday, what have you done for Kentland today?”

I must say that these few words rang like loud drums in this jumpseat rider’s ears. Bam! This is a concept that each and every firefighter who pulls on a pair of boots follows daily. Looking back on your last trip to the fire hall or shift, what did you do to make your department better?

While these are just words that anyone could speak, how can a jumpseat rider put them into action on a daily basis? Here are three that immediately came to this jumpseat rider’s mind:

  1. Learn something new every time you’re in the fire station

  2. Clean something that hasn't been touched in weeks

  3. Ask a senior member a question about your department’s history 

Learn Something New Every Time You’re In The Fire Station

Learning something new should be a constant goal. It doesn’t always have to be an earth shattering discovery. It could be something simple, like a new hose load or where the new piece of equipment has been mounted. These small things will make you more prepared and, in turn, make your department a better place. 

If you want to take it to the next level, search out a new topic or training idea and present it to the group. By taking the initiative and doing the research to make the firefighters more proficient or introduce them to a new skill, you will have made your department better while gaining the respect of your peers.

Clean Something That Hasn't Been Touched In Weeks

Keeping our equipment in jumpseat-ready condition should go unspoken in your department and in this blog, but unfortunately some equipment that doesn't get used often can become dirty and non-functional. How will this make your department look if you arrive on scene and discover that your airbags have a hole in them?  Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but it could happen.

How do we keep this from happening? Go clean something, now!  Don’t choose the things that are used on a daily basis, choose the top shelf, back of the compartment equipment that may need some TLC. Spend some extra time with the tool and while cleaning it…review its applications and safety practices. It’s just that simple!

Ask A Senior Member About Your Department's History

Go find the most senior firefighter or officer in your department, pull up a chair, pour some hot coffee and listen. Ask them to explain something about your department and where it came from, for example, our department still uses a booster reel. The reason we started using them is the constant running of small rubbish fires throughout the city. We continue to use them for the same reason. 

By sitting down to ask this question, you will understand that they are ONLY used for rubbish fires and that all members understand their application and limitations. Understanding the why with the how is important for two reasons. One, you know where it came from. Two, you understand or can challenge it’s place in the future of your department. Have an open mind and a closed mouth as you soak in the experience.

Make sure that you are always putting the needs of the many over the needs of the few. Taking Kentland Chief Kelleher’s approach to your time in the fire station will place the needs of the many first. Imagine if all your members took this approach and applied it each and every day?  Would your department be a better place? I vote yes!  Starting with the guy writing this article, I plan to listen and take the chief’s advice. Today, “I learned…”, ‘I cleaned out…”, and “I talked to…” will be in my vocabulary after every shift.

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