Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stay Safe

It is a simple phrase, one to quickly say and it means so many things. Lately it seems to carry negative connotations, some even feel it is offensive. At times the Fire Service is a gigantic teeter-toter, the views and beliefs of one group on their side with the opposite on the other. Right now we are seeing a Safety Culture vs. Aggressive Culture. My own opinion; they are really one in the same, but that is a topic for another day. So to say "Stay Safe" to a fellow Firefighter could be met with a smile and a "you too" or the stink eye.

Stay safe, two words that mean so much. When I am telling others to stay safe it is intended to include,

  • Focused, smart, fit, ready, attentive, passionate, vigilant, on the look out, prepared and look out for yourself and others. Along with plenty of others that could come to mind.

No negatives there, no words that would go against our mission. Nothing that states if smoke is showing "don't dare you take the fight to the fire." Being and acting safe is to be in a state of readiness for all that could come your way. Expect the unexpected. Do not take what you see at face value. Look at the situation more critically and if all else fails, ask questions before blindly running into a situation that you cannot win.

This phrase is a simple reminder that I want you to go out and do your best. Do what is honorable and noble so we do not tarnish this great profession. But when you do have to take that chance, that matter of life and death, use all the tools you have been given in your career. Make the best choices and decisions you can so you go home the same way you came in, in one piece.

I want all of you to STAY SAFE and I want EVERYONE TO GO HOME.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Polishing the wheel

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and suddenly have an "a-ha" moment? The way our minds operate is extremely interesting. While you are intently listening to the other persons words, your brain is constructing thoughts at the same time. On shift the Engineer and I were discussing some changes to the way the fire service operates. The conversation turned to the concepts behind Redefining the Engine Company. The verb "polish" was used. Part of RTEC is being proficient at our basic skills to be the most effective we can. Essentially we need to be "highly polished." Whether it is pump operations, grabbing the plug or stretching the line, we get one chance to get it right or "to shine."

Anyone that has been around a few years has experienced a standard operating procedure change. When this was rolled out did some utter "reinventing the wheel" or something to that connotation? Maybe a new tool was purchased or a task became more involved. Evolution has a funny way of taking our processes and altering them simply for change. Please do not take this sentiment in the wrong direction, I fully advocate change for viable reasons. "Change, inevitable, constant." We must be at least open to change,even more so in our line of work,

Use a little elbow grease and polish instead of reinventing the wheel.
The wheel, since it's creation thousands of years B.C. has been refined, updated and used for more than what originally intended for. Over the years the fire service wheel has gone through the same type of progression. Many of these updates have improved our level of service, ability to complete our mission and commitment to bring home our troops after every tour. When sitting at the drawing board ask yourself this "will this change reinvent the wheel to enhance our goals or will polishing our existing wheel do the trick." Odds are your wheel is in good shape, just needs a good polish.

Company Officers can help this process by laying out crew/shift expectations at the start of tour. A simple reminder of what they would like to accomplish in the initial stages of an incident can be a tremendous help. This is even more evident when your department has "floaters." Working with a different crew, at a different house or rig can sometimes cause confusion. Laying it out ahead of time puts some polish on right away.

Getting out on the drill ground works out bent spokes on the wheel. The exact opposite might even be the cure. During training evolutions we shine, but on the streets something is lacking. Perhaps drilling needs to occur on the streets to see if it will actually work. If that is not an option, what about adding street-like obstructions to your drill grounds? A few parked cars, trash cans or landscaping adds the realism while enhancing the training experience.

The last two paragraphs were simply a few suggestions on ways to help get that mirror like finish back on your wheel. Everyday we grow and change, for the better, we hope. Instead of reinventing the way we conduct business, start by identifying if it's polishing that's needed. Underneath that coat of mud is a great looking wheel, it just needed to be polished.