Are You a Disciplined Fireman?

Building a solid foundation

By Dave LeBlanc

Originally published 5 June 2010

Well are you? This doesn’t mean you are well behaved or obey all the rules. In fact let’s explore what it actually means.

Do you have the discipline to check your gear at the beginning of your shift? Do you make sure you have all your gear and that it is on the rig and ready to go? The time to find out your left glove is missing isn’t when the call comes in. Take that extra 5 minutes at the beginning of your shift to go through your gear and make sure it is all there. Make sure your light is fully charged and ready to go. Make sure your radio has a full battery. Make sure your cylinder is full of air.

So many of these things seem basic and they are. But they are also the foundation in making sure you are ready to go when that first call comes in.

Do you have the discipline to check your tools or are you satisfied that they are in good working order because the last shift said so? I know that cup of coffee is waiting in the kitchen, but this is an area where a little preparation goes a long way. Making sure your hand tools are clean and have good edges on them should be a matter of self responsibility and some good old fashioned pride. Making sure the saws start, that the nozzles work and are set to the right pattern. (easy for you smooth bore guys) These are the little things that set the well disciplined fireman apart from the rest of the pack.

Do you have the discipline to dress fully for every alarm? This way it becomes habit; muscle memory. It is so much easier to find out you don’t need all your gear and to dress down, versus wishing you had taken the time to dress up in the first place. Plus the public expects you to get off that truck ready to work. Why should they have to wait while you finish getting ready because you thought it was another false alarm?

Do you have the discipline to size up each call? Every run you go on you should be trying to determine what you will need to do based on what your assignment. This process should start as soon as you hear the address, not when you get off the truck. Commercial or residential? Occupied or unoccupied? Target hazard or ordinary hazard? The more you know before you get there means you will be better suited to get your job done as soon as the wheels stop rolling.

Do you have the discipline to slow down and walk? Why are so many of you running? Certainly we need to be able to perform our tasks in a rapid fashion, but slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Running causes excitement and excitement leads to disorder and chaos. Like our mental size up, our visual size up is equally, if not more important. If you run full steam ahead into the building then how good of a look did you get at its construction, fire and smoke conditions, egress options and where the other companies are operating? Take those vital few seconds to look around and see your surroundings. Take the time to walk.

Are you disciplined enough to buckle and drive safely? More than two thirds of the line of duty deaths reported were in vehicle accidents. Two thirds. How many of those could have been avoid if we slowed down, wore our seatbelts and drove with caution? You can’t save anyone if you don’t show up.

Do you have the discipline not to freelance? To stay with your company? To be accountable? Accountability is so much more than a tag on a board. We all owe it to ourselves to be accountable to each other. We all owe it to our crew to be accountable to them. Knowing where you are, where your crew is, and sticking with that assignment. Seems fairly simple right? Then why are so many getting it wrong. Can you stay with your assignment? Even if it is boring or there is something else you would rather do? What about remaining focused enough to stay on task, even when there is utter chaos around you. Can you do that?

Do you have the discipline to challenge the “we have always done it this way” mentality? To try and improve yourself? To try and improve your Department? To train like your life depending on it? Sometimes the way we do things is appropriate. Sometimes we get stuck in the past and refuse to see that maybe there is a better, safer, newer way to get it done. Don’t be too quick to abandon the tried and true methods, however, but learn from the mistakes others have made. Just because they weren’t on your department doesn’t mean their mistakes don’t apply.

Being a disciplined fireman takes commitment. It requires you to accept the fact that anything can happen at any moment. The disciplined fireman is dedicated to doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. This fireman is in the right place at the right time, prepared to do what is needed. A disciplined fireman teaches the new guy, even when the ballgame is on the TV. This fireman knows his job inside and out and continues to learn every day.

So often we hear about tradition and usually in a negative light. Well tradition isn’t negative, narrow mindedness and unwillingness to change is. Tradition dictates we learn from our past and pass those lessons on to the new guys. Tradition dictates that we honor our fallen and respect our elders (The Senior Men). Tradition says that we become disciplined firemen.

So the real question is do you really have the discipline?

Photo courtesy Unsplash

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Published by Data Not Drama

Data Not Drama is writings that provide a point of critical thought about firefighter fatality data and education, line of duty deaths, and risk. The main focus is to encourage less risk aversion and better knowledge on the subject of firefighter fatalities in firefighters, fire departments, and fire service organizations.

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