Many of us took similar paths into the fire service.
For some, it was for the opportunity to help someone in a time of need.
For others, it presented an opportunity to give back to their communities.
Privately, the excitement that a call could generate fueled an adrenaline spike that would explode into the ultimate struggle of Good vs. Evil.
There is no question that most firefighters want to be seen in the best light, held in the highest regard and looked upon as someone who can be trusted with the lives and properties in their communities.
We have trained to keep skills sharpened and up-to-date, while paying our respects to the fire service’s rich history and tradition.
Some of us have been drawn into reading volumes on fire history to an almost obsessive level. Though reading about Benjamin Franklin and his formation of the nation’s first volunteer fire department does little to enhance our skill sets, we recognize its importance to rounding out our personas as firefighters.
And that brings me to the purpose of this blog or rather, this question:
Are the motivating factors that shaped us 30 years ago still fueling the candidates entering the fire service today?
Are kids still “running to the curb”-as Tiger would say-to see the fire truck go by on its way to a call?
Are kids who have not grown up in a house where there have been generations of firefighters finding their own way into the fire service?
What is kick-starting that desire in the next generation of firefighters?
Will firefighter jobs be plentiful with the retirements of the 50/60-somethings or will they fall prey to budget constraints and destroy the dreams of those who wish to serve?
When you examine the cultural differences of today vs. 1980, you can see how societal changes have affected the perceptual inclinations of our newest firefighters.
What people my age perceived upon entering the fire service was an almost paramilitary, clandestine brotherhood.
Nothing left the confines of the fire station. Discussions and disputes started and ended at the fire station. Each man “covered” for the other, regardless of the circumstances. At the very least, they “didn’t know anything”.
The perception was that the fire department had to be seen as a group of honorable and rational men, capable of making split-second decisions in life and death situations.
Investigations into firefighter deaths would hardly ever go far enough as to reveal any damaging or damning facts that could impugn the dignity of the deceased and otherwise could bring shame or embarrassment to the grieving family. Some called it “extending a professional courtesy”.
And besides; even if something “unseemly” did make it to the news, it was local; where it stayed.
Everything and everyone is on the fast track.
Short bursts and short bites followed by copious amounts of diverse and sometimes perverse information can quickly lull us into overload mode.
We are not attracted to any, one subject; we do not want to “specialize”.
We are de facto game show contestants, vying to show our deep reservoir of general knowledge.
We want to do something today, but do something entirely different tomorrow.
And we don’t want to do anything that is going to chew up large chunks of our time. That feels too much like a job!
So; how do we get a hook into the newbies and reel them in?
How can a fire department match their training programs to candidates who are not fond of repetition or being told incessantly what to do, for that matter?
I have always been a traditionalist where it comes to the fire department. But, I am also a realist. I honestly believe that it is important to cite fire department history and some of the nation’s, major fire service milestones into perpetuity. Knowing why a ceremony is a time-honored tradition brings honor and dignity to the act and we must carry that forward.
Where we can jack it up for the next generation is in the training and how it is presented. Challenge them to improve the process. Let them drill with the music on. Turn it off if it’s a distraction or they are not drilling correctly. Find out what trips their trigger and then trip it.
What I learned from my days of fishing is that the biggest hook didn’t necessarily catch the biggest fish, but it made it harder for the fish to get off of the hook.
So, look for the right hook…
And don’t forget the bait!
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Please visit www.fireemsblogs.com and my blog at www.chiefreasonart.com.