Out of My Mind

"We can be different, but we also need to be open-minded to alternative beliefs."

By Rich Marinucci

Over the years I have become more reliant on people’s actions versus what they say; that is, actions speak louder than words. During some recent classes I have asked the participants what they think is the most important resource in their fire department. To a person, they always answer it is the firefighters. I assume this to mean all the human resources including the officers.

I then go on to demonstrate that their actions and the actions of others would not always support that. I may ask if their department offers firefighter physicals to all firefighters, two sets of turnout gear, and other things intended to protect firefighters and make them more capable of doing their job.

Are NFPA standards such as 1500, 1521, and the others in the safety series followed as precisely as standard that dictates how fire trucks and turnout gear are made? Often the answer is, “It costs too much.” If that is the case, then spending money on your most valuable resource is not worth it. The actions don’t match the words.

I don’t need to stop there. I will ask some simple questions as to what they clean first when they return to the station after a fire. It will usually be the hose, SCBA, turnout gear, hand tools, and fire truck. I then ask why they don’t clean their most valuable resource from the carcinogens they most likely picked up during the fire by showering before working on the less important parts of their department. I get lots of reasons, mostly about being ready for the next call.

I can follow that up with questions about how frequently the next fire happens immediately after they returned from the last fire. That appears to be rare except in a few organizations. The point that should be made is that if firefighters are the most valuable resource, we should act like it and protect them as best as possible from immediate hazards and those that have potential long-term effects.

Here is a frustration that I am not sure is unique to the fire service. Email is the primary means of communication in most organizations. We do it because it is easy, fast, not reliant on someone answering a phone, and keeps a record that we communicated. More times than I want to think would happen I have sent emails to folks with more than one question or issue in the email. Too many times I only get a response to the first item. I then send another asking the intended recipient to look at the entire email and answer all the questions and provide all the information requested.

Is this because we are too busy and speed through the reading or some other reason? For some folks who are notorious with this, I now send only one issue per email and make sure the title is different. It seems to be working but is also a waste of time. Any suggestions?

I really enjoy discussing issues with folks that look at things differently. It is an opportunity for me to learn and change or to offer arguments that help others see things slightly contrary to what they may have thought. We have similarities due to our job, but we also have a different slant on things as we come from different places, have different education and training, along with different experiences.

Sometimes people get riled up and then miss critical points being made. In order to grow and improve as a person and fire professional, we need to have open minds during discussions and think. Maybe this is a product of our initial recruit training where most are told to just do what they are told and not question or think. We need to discuss items to search for the best option, knowing that in many instances, one size will not fit all. We can be different, but we also need to be open minded to new ideas and alternative beliefs. This probably applies both inside and outside the fire service.

As we enter the holiday season, I wish everyone the absolute best regardless of how you celebrate. I sincerely hope that the pandemic of the past two years (wow, that is hard to believe that it has gone on this long) becomes manageable and the previous normal returns. I also wish everyone a happy, healthy New Year for 2022.

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