There is a whole bunch of banter going on in the Internet world about the FDIC speech of FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack. I am a little late getting to this but I wanted to throw my two cents in about this issue.
These thoughts are in no particular order and just represent what I think I heard in replaying it a couple of times.
I am going to use the phrase " I think I heard" in the points listed below. It does not represent the actual quotes that the Lt. used it is my impression and opinion of those points. (Official disclaimer, no flaming emails please ! (grin)
- I have attended several classes with Lt. Ray McCormack in several venues. I have always learned a ton of stuff to take away and he has lot's to offer.
- His experience and ability in this job stand on their merits and nobody should be questioning that stuff.
- He was voicing his opinion as are all the other folks voicing their opinions, as I am doing right here. There has been a bunch of real vicious cheap remarks at some folks that disagreed with his few. I was taken aback by some of that stuff. Let's disagree as professionals at least.
- I was not offended at the speech in general.
- He made some particularly offensive comments which are bandied about about "too much safety" etc, etc. I found those particular remarks a little over the top, but I believe he intended them to be direct, way on the edge and incite the discussion which is now taking place. Those specific remarks were a bit much, but heck that is only my opinion, ...he expressed his, I expressed mine and I think that is OK.
- Not in exact words but in concept I also heard him say, that the pride, desire, and core values of the job are changing and that made him mad. He did not use those words but when you invoke the names, of Ray Downey, Pat Brown, and others you are talking about firefighters in the truest sense of the word. I think I would agree there is some loss in that area and I am not sure how we can get it back.
- I also heard him describe his passion and love for the job which was verbally visible out there on the sleeve of his Class A uniform. If you were not inspired about his passion and love for the job then you missed some stuff.
- I heard him say that putting out the fire makes things safer. "Nuff said.
- I heard him say that he was a little disappointed in some fire service leaders. I think I heard him say that leaders are become paralyzed by political and liability concerns. I think his statement was a little far reaching, but I get it and I don;t disagree.
- I heard him say that fear on the fire ground can be dangerous. I don;t disagree but there needs to some healthy respect and knowledge of fire behavior and fire attack so that decisions are being made appropriately.
- I heard him say that folks are not going in to make rescues when there is life involved. I am not aware of folks doing that nationwide but it is something he said. If there is a life involved we had better be doing all we can to change the outcome of that in anyway we can. I am not an advocate of "Trading lives" but we had better damn well be wrinkling the envelope.
- I also heard him say train, keep training, and keep training. For the folks that know me, there is no argument there.
- His terse and direct remarks with a sarcastic bent upon the safety culture, I have to disagree with as they were presented. I thought they were a bit tough. I know why he said them but I truly believe that the amount of "safety culture" is department specific and I also believe that it is like a pendulum in balance. I believe that sometimes we do some unreasonable things on the fire ground and fire scenes that can be corrected and fixed. It is a dangerous job and we will never get to no injuries and deaths but I think there is some fixable stuff and we need to continue to hop on that stuff until we get it right. I agree that we should never hide from doing our job when the bell rings, but I do not believe we have to be injured or killed when there is no civilian life involved.....however we come to that decision on the scene.
I think that the fire service needs to have the dialog it is having on a national scale.I think we can have the discussion professionally and with a touch more dignity then the present one on this issue. Everyone who believes in safety is not a coward and everyone who stands next to FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack is not as experienced or trained as him by osmosis. There is somewhere in the middle as many other authors have pointed out.
I am thankful and grateful for the folks from FDNY, Chicago, and LA, and Phoenix who have a ton of experience to share with all of us and to continue to train us.
The downside to having those folks train us is some if the policies, procedures, and tactics that are employed by them, do not always translate into the majority of departments that attend the training they give. When you go to as many fires as FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack does and you respond with an adequately staffed first alarm, you have a different view from the six folks that arrive first at the same house fire, in a non hydrant district.
Unfortunately fire ground safety has some basic principles to it which must be interpreted and applied to the circumstances and conditions you are presented with. Those circumstances include people, procedures and equipment.
Lots of people, lots of equipment, lots, of training and experience, and rigid well thought out procedures = maybe a less emphasis on safety because you success rate is high and continued to be likely.
Minimal people, minimal equipment, less experience and training, and less procedures = maybe a greater emphasis on safety because bad things are likely to happen.
We need safety at all incidents. We need to keep talking about it. Training will always help us no matter what we believe we heard in the speech.