Living through fire and smoke
Rapporteur_Hessam Karbasian: Today, there are demands and expectations of firefighters. Basic understanding of what happens in the lives of firefighters and the people do not know everything about them, sometimes causing their value to be distorted and underestimated.
According to a local newspaper in America recently came across a letter from a citizen's complaint that it was set against a firefighter.
It said the firefighter had been seen inside a grocery store, shopping, before being picked up outside by a fire engine. The citizen was concerned that his life safety was being compromised and compalined about the "terrible waste of taxpayer's money on fuel."
He feared that by not being in the firehouse, the crew would be delayed in responding to a call. Give me a break. Granted this was only one person's opinion — but anyone with any common sense and knowledge of the situation would know that firefighters have to eat and immediate emergency response is not in jeopardy.
Perhaps there is more to the story. Did the citizen try to contact the local fire department to find out more information? How about inviting him into the firehouse to meet the crew and observe what happens inside those bay doors. I would expect that within an hour, that person would be a fan of the department. He'd exit with one new dark blue FD T-shirt and bam: he is now spreading your praises. Incidentally, in the following weeks paper, another citizen politely rallied behind the department and tried to fill the guy in (and no, it was not this columnist, but I did think about it).
This is an example of how firefighters are expected to be on-duty, ready to respond at all hours, fully trained but under budget. Management may be demanding, "Do more with less," but the labor is saying, "What is in it for me?."
Let's look past what the public's perception of firefighters might be in your community. Daily duties vary considerably but let's group them into housekeeping, vehicle maintenance, training, public education, sleeping and eating, and running calls.
Under the heading of "… and other duties assigned by administration" can include everything from attending birthday parties to copying 30 map books. We all know the variety of stuff and the BS that is sometimes dumped on us. But if you can't take it, it's time to turn in the badge and move on.
Most firefighters are ready to meet the demands placed on them and proudly defend the title of "America's Bravest." This isn't about labor versus management; life is all about balance. Just for fun, let's look at it from the firefighter's perspective: when you decide to become a firefighter, is anyone looking after your needs? Well, I propose the following simple mantra. Let's call it. "The Rights of the Firefighter." Look it over and decide how your department measures up. Note that rehab plays an important part, not just under the medical care heading but can relate to each "right" that follows it. If nothing else, these "rights" should provide some fuel for productive firehouse kitchen banter.
Medical care and supervision
The department has invested quite a bit into your position, so aren't you worth medical care? This means having a dedicated EMS unit available on emergency scenes for the firefighters. Is rehab set up on all calls where physical demands are experienced especially during extreme weather? Our sports-orientated society provides outstanding medical care for our athletes. But isn't coming out of a structure fire or prolonged rescue worthy of the best rehabilitation that can be provided?
People placed in positions of authority and supervision need to be competent. College degrees, promotional exams, length of service all may play into the appointments. The bottom line is that leaders need to have integrity and the skills necessary to lead. You can come up with the most fair way to determine this, but it has to be present.
Are your current leaders making efforts to become even more productive? Are your future leaders being groomed and challenged to someday lead the troops?
Safe equipment, personal protection gear and procedures
We are getting there. Read the fire journals and websites and attend some seminars. Firefighting safety is deservedly the hot topic. The problem is some folks don't want to take this on as if their life depends on it -- it does! Pick up the latest NFPA newsletter and start making some improvements. Not everything will happen overnight, but assess where you need to improve. Dig out your department's SOP manual and identify where you stand. It is truly your right to go home after your shift or call in one piece.
Adequate training and physical conditioning
Does your department place a priority on maintaining fitness and wellness? You have the right to exercise, eat healthily and get adequate rest. There might have been some type of physical agility test used in the hiring process, but is there any on-going emphasis on your physical condition? Are you properly trained to perform the tasks required of you? Even on a day without any calls, participating in some serious training will allow you to end your shift feeling like a firefighter. Otherwise, just pop more popcorn and put in another movie until you fall asleep. What is the public perception of a firefighter?
Well firefighter, how does your department stack up? We know the job is tough and that the rewards are sometimes hidden. Are your rights being provided and protected with you in mind? If not, take the appropriate productive approach in seeing some improvement.
Respurce : Michigan Local Newspaper (Daily News)