Monday, January 21, 2013

Is it really our job?

This blog posting is one I wrote last summer. In this new year, I think this article should once again surface as it is important to evaluate “what is your job” for the new year. Only after you establish a mind set for success in 2013 will success and progression occur. Make no mistake, if you remain the same from 2012, you will repeat the year prior with no change. Be safe.

Your brother, Justin

Is it really our job?

Every house in this country runs calls for service that may or may not have anything significant to them. As firefighters, we often categorize these runs that amount to nothing as, well you know…. But are running these calls that are not kicking in doors and fighting fire or doing CPR after cutting someone out of a car, our job? We as firefighters need to take a long look in the mirror and decide, what is our job?

Scenario: It is nearing the end of your tour of duty and the phone rings. The citizen on the other end sounds to be in a slight panic and explains that her dog is stuck in a drainage pipe at the end of her driveway.

With the given scenario, what would you do? I am sure some of you would say, “call animal control,” or “call me when he catches on fire”. This is a common response I heard when giving the scenario to some of the guys around the kitchen table. Granted we were all joking around, but for those of you that “get it”, you may have a different response when you seriously think it over.

As a firefighter, you signed on to save lives. Never in any oath, promotional ceremony, or job description have I ever seen where we save “human” lives. I have only seen “save lives.” When the dog from the scenario entered the drainage pipe, he was living, thus it is a life. To many and possibly even you, a family dog is just that, family. Granted, I would inject some caution with the situation at hand for safety’s sake, but our job is to get in there, figure it out, make the rescue, and go home. Our job is to save lives.

Our main job, despite what anyone says is to fight fires and save lives. We run the Haz-Mats, the EMS runs, the auto accidents, and the service calls. All of these things have 1 major thing in common. They are all jobs we do to serve. We are here to serve. This job is a privilege that your community allows you to maintain. Thank them by giving it your all and being a community steward.

Any job that the fire department can do to better the lives of the community served, should be looked into and if feasible, implemented. For example:

Hazardous Materials response
Emergency Medical Services
Fire Prevention and Public Education
Community service opportunities for the court system
Food drive support
Elderly support networks

The dog in a drainage pipe scenario is just one that I have encountered in my career. There are many other examples of these types of calls, you know the 2am smoke detector chirping or the leg pain that has an onset of a year ago and they call at 4 am. We all have ran them, we all have moaned and groaned, and we all should suck it up. This is our job.

Take these calls as an opportunity to sharpen your skills, practice, drill, and most importantly, reach out to the community you protect. For example, Ladder Company 1 in Wake Forest will take the time to ladder a building and set the aerial up on occasion, on scene of the normal automatic fire alarm to maintain skills and train. I know that Captain Chris Wilson of the City of Raleigh Fire Department will from time to time call on his guys to stretch lines on an automatic fire alarm where nothing is going on. Do these situations scream overkill? Absolutely not. Every call should be treated like it is the “big one”. Every call should be an opportunity for the crew to train. At the end of the day, these proactive companies are ready because of their progressive attitudes.

You may have noticed above that I hit on “elderly support networks.” This is an important opportunity for the fire department. A few years ago, the former Falls Fire Department that I was blessed to have been apart of, started a program called, “Operation Care Bear”. The program was started by firefighters who saw that there was a need to provide a life saving prevention service to the elderly of their community during adverse weather. Local citizens and churches could have residents placed on the “care bear” list. Anytime that certain weather parameters were met, firefighters would hit the streets and visit the citizens on the list. Firefighters would take the time to visit with the citizens, ensure that their medication and food supply was adequate to safely face the adverse weather condition as well as ensuring that the citizen had adequate heating or cooling of their home. Firefighters would also look around the home for any hazards to the citizen, help to fix the hazards, and would help with anything around the house that the citizen couldn’t get accomplished. If the firefighters could not make it right. They called someone who could. Visits would last around 15 minutes and the impact of these visits may never be known, which is fine by me. I know that a positive impact was made on these citizens that we treated like we would our own family. Through this program, firefighters knew their community, rallied support, and created a community bond. In March of 2012, Falls Fire Department merged with Wake Forest Fire Department. The program has continued for the citizens of the Falls community with outstanding leadership of the program. The program has met some “this isn’t our job” controversy since it’s development. So is this type of service our job? You decide. Did this program potentially save lives? Did this program allow firefighters to serve their community? Did this program allow for the strengthening of the community?

So I ask you again, what is and isn’t our job? Make a change in 2013 for the better of not only yourselves, but your community.

For more information on Falls’ Operation Care Bear Service, shoot me an email at and I will put you in touch with the program coordinator. This program is near and dear to me as I have family on the care bear list. This program makes a difference. Could your department use this? I hope to see this program form into an elderly care program for firefighters nationwide.

1 comment:

  1. Justin,

    As warden's of the community it is all part of our job. We are the one's who take the call when there is no one left to call because we usually handle our business with our neighbors in a caring manner. You bring up some very good points, keep up the strong work brother.