Make It About Us

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

Right before I sat down to write this, my kids were getting home from school, and I asked them to keep it down because I needed to write my editorial.

I jokingly said to them, “I don’t have any ideas yet. Any suggestions?” Almost in unison, Owen and Sean replied, “Make it about me.” But, Ian said, “Make it about us, Dad.” So, I gave them a courtesy chuckle and started back to my desk. But along the way, I suddenly thought, “That’s it!”

I was recently part of a discussion on the topic of training drills involving playing a game of dodgeball while wearing all personal protective equipment (PPE), including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). We also touched on playing basketball in the same attire. You can check out the discussion here: The crux of my position is that I think it’s a creative way to learn about how your PPE allows you to move and how quickly you heat up. But, I chose not to conduct such drills because of the research occurring about the physiological effects on your body from being encapsulated. I questioned whether or not there was more value to dodgeball than crawling around a burn building in terms of discovering how your body and your PPE “behave” under live fire conditions. Ultimately, I am in the minority on this, and I’m comfortable with that. I just don’t want to kill anybody.

Leading isn’t always easy, especially when the decisions you’re making aren’t popular even if they are made for the right reasons. As chief officers and safety officers, we are charged with being stewards of our crews’ safety. As such, decisions made in the name of protecting their safety are indeed making it about us and the right calls.

Making it about us goes beyond this, of course. As I write this, members of the Wilmington (DE) Fire Department are preparing to say goodbye to one their own who passed away as a result of injuries sustained at an intentionally set fire-the third line-of-duty death (LODD) resulting from the fire. As a fire service, we were also saddened to learn about the passing of a firefighter who took his own life. As a collective, we are struggling with increased numbers of heart-related LODDs as well as increased instances of cancer traceable to our jobs and the equipment we trust to protect us.

Making it about us is insisting on decon after a structure fire. It’s about zero tolerance for not washing turnout gear after a working job. It’s about driving under control so you, your officer, and your crew-and, in some cases, crews traveling to the same incident-make it to an incident and back. It’s about sitting on the right hand side and telling the driver to slow down. Making it about us is watching for the signs that someone might be considering taking his life. And, making it about us is having systems in place to help us deal with the fact that we can do everything right and sometimes tragedies still occur.

It’s not just on the fireground where we need to make it about us. When you are specing equipment or a fire apparatus, what decisions are you making for your crew? How many of the “nice to haves” are you going with in lieu of the “need to haves”?

We just came out of the holiday season, and within these pages we’ve seen predictions about the fire industry for 2017. January 1 is a “reboot” moment for many. This year, try to make everything you do about us. Do it for your partner on the line, for the crew you are leading, and for the personnel whose safety you are called on to ensure. Do not be afraid to make the tough decisions or the unpopular decisions if you believe you are choosing a particular route with the bigger picture in mind.

The big picture is probably the most important part of “making it about us.” Decisions we make today reverberate for many years to come: like specing the hosebed that was a bit too high to be practical; not wearing an SCBA when you should be and paying for it down the road; going too fast and causing an accident; making a large equipment purchase without consulting those who will use it; or designing apparatus that end up being too large for the districts in which they are used. Remember to keep that big picture in mind this year as you set out to create solutions for the challenges we face every day.

As it turns out, Ian had a good idea when he said, “Make it about us, Dad.”

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