Monday, August 31, 2009

Medieval Times

Does the fire service need to undergo a tactical renaissance? Perhaps; but in what context of the meaning should we adopt if we say yes? Merriam’s defines, and I further paraphrase for my later argument, ‘renaissance’ as: the transition between medieval and modern times. Furthermore, it can be assumed that most arguments in favor of instituting such an inferred “renaissance” are not based simply on analysis of past fireground injuries and or LODDs. Rather, they seem to be based on one man’s seminal and misunderstood speech at a recent trade show, yes a trade show. Have we really been time-warped back to and hence operating in medieval times since April?

I say no. And here’s why. Our respective cultures (okay, I’ll overuse this descriptive and contextual word like everyone else) are not based upon the current mood, decorum, or attitudes of our departments. Rather, they are based upon learned behavior and skills that our organizations adopted to safely adhere to the mission our taxpayers need us to accept. No one however, ever passed on to me that I should do stupid stuff at fires to create an unsafe culture. Instead, if I ever embarrassed my company and put people in unnecessary jeopardy, the only unsafe part of my day would have occurred behind the apparatus when we returned to quarters. I’ve been admonished by senior members for things in the past and I am a better firefighter for it. However, after getting lucky in a couple of promotional exams, I now get admonished by the Battalion and higher-ups for similar offenses.

So why post-haste to change our culture? The aforementioned behavior and skills took decades to learn and adopt (collectively as a fire service). Moreover, my department (like other big towns) saw unprecedented fire duty in the 60’s through the 80’s, leveling off in the early 90’s. It’s still good fire duty because we still learn at most fires. The experience and lessons passed down to us from those guys is invaluable. In fact, it has kept our injury and LODD rate remarkably low for a department our size. Notwithstanding the obvious danger and risk in our profession, we actually do better than a lot of other professions. This is based on the pride in workmanship and yes, a more tangible safety culture that transcended the 60’s in our job. I do think there needs to be a renaissance though, however, I’d rather see one that keeps the consultants out and lets the scientists in.

Continue Reading Medieval Times
We don’t need more leadership, we never lost much of it in the first place. There rarely is an unfilled spot (funded ones I guess I should say these days) in the Chief ranks or the seniority roster in the fire company. The only thing we have lost is adherence to the tactics and didactics that were passed down. Perhaps that is where no one is actually looking! Digressing, we are seeing welcomed proof of scientific meddling as of late with recent wind-driven fire tests; and advances in PPE and the forthcoming low-profile SCBA, et al., everyone is dying to get…literally.

The aforementioned advances and variables of my renaissance are empirically researched and developed to allow us to adhere to our mission in a safer fashion. And yes, they are advances that protect and aid us while we are inside fire buildings adhering to said mission. As another aside, didn't we used to call departments that used new tools and equipment with incumbent tactics as “progressive.” Let’s really post-haste and get them into the hands (the ones that will be left after the recession) of Firefighters who could give a rats about renaissances so they can do their job safer. Now that’s a great transition between ‘medieval’ and modern times that we can all agree with.

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