Out of My Mind: Commitment to Preparation

By Richard Marinucci

The FDSOA recently concluded its Annual Safety Forum and Apparatus Symposium. While there were many great programs, the keynote address that ended the Apparatus Symposium and began the Safety Forum certainly offered much to think about. Janine Driver, an expert in reading body language, offered some very interesting insights into what can be noticed besides the spoken word. Of course, it took her years of study and practice to become an expert but just think how valuable this skill would be for firefighter health and safety and on the fire ground. You could better read firefighters regarding how they really are feeling. It would also be helpful to know how they are responding to direction. Just another aspect of the job to improve. Of course like everything else in this line of work, where do you find the time and resources to be able to improve in this area? But it is something to think about.

Speaking of events that have recently taken place—Super Bowl LIII—look what can be learned. These are teams that have made it to the top of their profession. Whether you are a Patriots or Rams fan, (or thought the Saints should have been playing!), you have to admire the effort that it takes to get there—mentally, physically, and emotionally. There is daily study and practice to learn as much as possible and maintain proficiency, even with the most mundane of tasks. On top of that, players and coaches must withstand the emotional ups and downs of the season and each game. What would your fire department look like if the membership was trying to win a championship and committed to daily practice and study? What if members worked to get into the best possible shape that they could be in for the mission ahead? I realize that it is different preparing for a 60-minute game than a 25-year career, but think of the potential if we could improve our efforts to improve through preparation? There would have to be a significant improvement in the service being provided.

I was talking to a fire chief recently who was lamenting the challenges of working with elected officials. In his mind he was providing good direction and sound ideas to move his organization forward. He had evidence and statistics to back up his proposals. Yet, there was no indication of intent to act on the recommendations. Some of the ideas were outside the norm for a fire department but still fundamentally sound. The frustration was evident from the chief. This is too bad on a couple of fronts. The community risks losing a very good chief—either through relocation or the chief electing to take the easy route and go along with the flow. Either way, the community will not be better for it. Unfortunately in too many communities, the fire service is perceived as a necessary evil that does not contribute to the bottom line. This is done in the name of running government like a business. But, government services exist for the greater good and are not intended to be profit centers. That is why there is the power to tax. If everyone “bought into the services offered” (no pun intended), they would voluntarily send in their donations!!!

On occasion, I go through some of my boxes of materials (okay to be honest my wife makes me clean out the attic from time to time!). While recently doing this, I came across two articles that seemed to be ahead of their time. The first was from 1985, and the topic was “burn out.” Aren’t we still trying to figure this out? The second was from 1990, and the topic was the risk of cancer for firefighters. It seems that we only recently began making some headway educating firefighters and some of the public about cancer. There is so much attention given to this today. Were the authors that far ahead of the issue? We must not have taken it too seriously back then, or we would have started down the path earlier. Sometimes it is all about timing. The masses must be ready when new ideas are generated.

RICHARD MARINUCCI is the executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department in 2008, a position he had held since 1984. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering Editorial Advisory Board member, a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and past chairman of the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In 1999, he served as acting chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months. He has a master’s degree and three bachelor’s degrees in fire science and administration and has taught extensively.

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