Why I Teach: Jerry Wells

In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.

Jerry Wells

By Jerry Wells,

battalion chief, Lewisville (TX) Fire Department

“Firefighting Is the Ultimate Team Sport: Build a Better Team”

Monday, April 18, 8:00 a.m.-12 p.m.

“It should be our highest priority to protect those feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, and passion we felt for our career when we entered the fire service. No one should be able to take them from us.” To this end, I have focused on building and maintaining a team mentality in the fire service. We need to continue to train, but we also need to spend some time reinforcing the value of personal responsibility as it relates to just getting along.

We spend up to 90 percent of our time in the firehouse or doing non-emergency activities. The remainder of the time we attend to emergency activities. This is the time when firefighters love what they are doing and are at their best.

As an officer in a fairly busy fire department, the “problems” I deal with usually come from the non-emergency times, the downtime in the firehouse. The issues typically relate to attitude. Firefighters have many opportunities for good quality training, mental and hands on; but all that training is wasted if the overall attitude of the firefighter is negative.

Negative firehouse conduct can become so destructive, and it affects lives and careers. Most of us entered this profession excited, enthusiastic, and passionate, ready to save the world. But, often, these emotions fade, if not vanish.

In every class I have presented to date, I have witnessed “sweating eyes” because of the emotion drawn out of the tenured firefighters in attendance. Firefighters don’t cry, but sometime, their eyes will sweat under certain circumstances.

Featured in the class is the “BE HERE NOW” concept, which simply means that when I am on duty, I should be present mind, body, and soul—I should give my all to the profession. Tomorrow you can get back to the part-time job. Several departments have put up “BE HERE NOW” signs in their firehouses and training facilities. This concept came from Coach Chris Peterson of the Boise State Broncos. It is making an impact in our fire service. In this era of smart phones and instant information, fire department leaders have been experiencing an epidemic of firefighters who can’t seem to stay engaged in the job for a complete tour of duty. The response to the “BE HERE NOW” program has led to the sequel “Character Counts, The 6 Pillars of Character, and How to Build a Rock Star Firehouse,” which made its debut at a conference in Missouri in February and was well received.

Over the seven years I have been teaching this class, I have received some of the most humbling evaluations. On three occasions, I received emails/letters from students who said the class saved their career because they had lost their passion and had never gotten motivated to get it back. Many 30-year veterans said they should have heard this program years ago.

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