Editor’s Opinion | Chris Mc Loone
Last month, I relayed a story about how I attended a training session where a nontraditional helmet was available to try out to anyone who wanted.
The training session was for my fire company, and it was a live burn evolution. One person tried it on the inside, and he is our captain. Two other people tried it on but declined the opportunity to wear it inside. The captain, who was stoking, thought the helmet was light, didn’t have much of a problem with it, but switched back to his regular helmet during the next burn.
I decided to give it a try at my company’s next live burn, which took place the following month. I readily admit that when I found out a neighboring fire company was bringing its ladder truck to participate in the burn evolutions, initially I had second thoughts about it, because I didn’t feel like explaining the helmet, how I got it, why I was wearing it, etc. But, I simmered down and was one of two stokers during the live burn evolutions.
My experience mirrors my captain’s. I found it comfortable, to the point that I hardly realized it was there. I am cognizant that many are concerned about being able to hear with these alternative style helmets. During these training burns, I did not have that problem, and I admit that unless I wear it inside at a working job, I won’t know for sure. The helmet I wore did not have an integrated face piece, and my SCBA face piece did fit fine underneath the helmet. Ultimately, I did not have any issues.
I shared my experience online. When I shared it on social media, the post got the usual comments. There were many who just said, “Nope.” Although I don’t understand that train of thought, I certainly respect that some feel that way. What surprised me were posts that suggested at the magazine, we are beholden to our advertisers and have to push their goods onto the fire service.
I disagree with that. I believe my job here and the jobs of everyone else involved with this magazine are to ensure, to the best of our ability, that the fire service is aware of what is available in the market to help them do their jobs better. If there’s a product that some aren’t sure of and we can get a hold of it, try it out ourselves, and give our impression of the product—not by model number but by product type—then I think we should. And, in this instance, after charging our readership last month to keep an open mind during 2020, how can I not practice what I preach?
I’ve often said that whenever you specify a fire apparatus, there are always tradeoffs. An option or feature in one place often means a change somewhere else. The same concept applies to any product available to us as well: There are positives and negatives for any product.
So, I’m not trying to force anyone to wear a particular type of helmet. I really don’t care what you wear on your head. Decisions like that are local to you and your department. But, if you have a chance to try something out, I think you should. And, if you try it and you think it has merit but it needs work, explain why and what changes you’d make.
For as many of the typical comments we received on our social media post, there were many positive comments. I was surprised at how many tried one, liked it, and stuck with it. We don’t get to hear many of those stories. As for me, I’m not changing at this time. The helmet has not been fully vetted by the department, for one thing, and I’m not allowed to purchase my own helmet to wear. I wear the same model everyone else does at the firehouse.
Of the comments, the following is my favorite: “Can’t speak for the other models but so far I like my [helmet]. Not for everyone though, you gotta have thick skin.” That about sums it up when it comes to these nontraditional helmets. Thick skin … AND an open mind. Keep an open mind and keep the discussion going.