Last week at FDIC, in just under 40 minutes, Safety in the fire service took a major hit.
From the opening salvo delivered by Chief Bobby Halton to his “body-burying buddy”, FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack; disdain, indifference and apathy for a safer fire service was never more evident.
And clearly, I will respectfully disagree with their messages in this year of personal responsibility for safety.
This I want to die with my boots on mentality in the fire service is killing us. I cannot recall one incident where SAFETY killed one of us at an incident. So, it is Safety that is our only hope for reducing injuries and deaths; both firefighter AND civilian.
Honestly; I am shocked by what I heard. If I understood, Halton wants us to risk everything to save a life and to preserve the symbolism of the red fire truck, as defined by writer Kurt Vonnegut.
Now; I realize that when I became a firefighter, I promised God that I would risk my life to save another, BUT, I NEVER agreed to GIVE UP my life to save another.
So that you understand that last statement, what it means is that I would not consciously put myself in a position to die, but if I crossed that threshold during an attempted rescue, then play lively music at my funeral! It also means that conditions changed while I was inside from when I went inside.
Continue Reading Follow the Yellow "Safety Brick" Road!
And I’m sorry, Bobby, but art and commerce are not on my “save” list as you would like. I’m not willing to cross the threshold for an album filled with “Kodak moments”. They can get another camera and start a new album along with that new life that we just gave them!
I believe that our public does not want to see us dying in property that is unoccupied, insured and can be re-built. They do not want the guilt of knowing that we died and left families of our own behind.
Before I turn my attention to Lt. McCormack’s comments, I will say this with regards to Chief Halton’s comments: if you want a world where firefighters give the ultimate sacrifice to preserve honor, tradition and the sacred trust, then these should be men and women-orphans who are unfeeling, uncaring and unimportant to and of themselves, with no families or friends-who will not leave someone suffering, in order to relieve the suffering of others.
WE-every firefighter that you have ever stood before-understand and accept our fate. Unfortunately, our parents, families, friends, wives, and especially our kids do not feel full from our deaths; only emptiness.
So maybe, you should take your message to THEM. Get their buy-in and then we can come back to the safety table and talk about how sissified and saftified we’re making the fire service.
I will put my heart, guts and balls out there with anyone else, but as a leader, MY MEN COME FIRST, but the public is first on our list. Making my men number one does not make the public number two. I understand that we have to serve them, but we are not sub-servant; no less important.
And as their leader, no one is more important to me than my men are. And I am unwilling to believe that their lives are worth less than the life of someone we swore to serve.
The irony of all of this is that we only want to roll out Safety when there is talk of budget cuts and reducing manpower. Now, that’s unsafe!
“Too much safety lends itself to fear”, says FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack.
What is “too much safety”? I have been involved with safety as a profession for twenty-plus years and I have yet to see “too much”.
But, can someone show me ONE example of where Safety EVER got in the way of any of you doing your jobs?
No? That’s because you CAN’T!
You see; we pick and choose where we invoke the cry for Safety. The rest is simply ignored.
Why do we waste that one position on safety officer? Give him a set of irons and go do something, for chrissakes.
Teaching people the safe way to do their jobs gives them a better understanding, helps them to avoid problems caused by a lack of understanding and builds their confidence that is the underpinnings for their courage under fire. It makes them FEARLESS; not fearful!
In closing, I will also respectfully disagree with the Lt.’s assessment that “the path is paved with yellow safety bricks”.
The path is paved with black bunting, lined with Class A’s, vibrating with drums and bagpipes, grieving with widows, moms, dads, fatherless/motherless children and cemented with the spirits of thousands of glorious and gifted lives who thought that they were bound by duty to die, either by necessity or by accident.
“Courage-Determination-Pride”; me and the Lt. agree on these three, but this is my take on them:
Have courage to stand up to those who believe there’s too much safety and say that there is as of yet, not enough.
Have the determination to develop, implement and enforce SOGs that are constructed with a foundation strong in safety.
Show your pride, knowing that you did your job, did it safely, got the job done and you didn’t have to compromise your sacred trust.
To Bobby Halton and FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack; thank you for keeping the spotlight on Safety.
It will continue to be seen in a different light.
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