I am fortunate enough to have been enjoying a week at the beach. The weather has been great and the fishing has been wonderful. It has been a needed time to recharge the system. I even had my best friend say she would marry me on this trip. It has been a great week. It is always at the time you least expect it that an event will occur, creating an inspiration for a new post.
Today, I was relaxing in the beach house when my fiancé called to say that something was on fire a street over from our house. Naturally, I went to investigate. I found commercial dumpster against a home under construction with structural building materials burning within. Luckily, the beach winds were headed away from the home, or there would have likely been an exposure issue. The local fire department arrived and pulled a 1.5” trash line. Line deployment went well. A volunteer arrived and fought the fire in boat shoes, shorts, and a tee shirt. That’s when the writing bug bit me. With all off the cancer causing chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide in today’s building materials, glues, and by-products, why do we continue to expose ourselves unnecessarily to these health dangers?
There is a simple solution. TURNOUTS ARE FOR EVERYONE. Wear your turnouts. Wear your air pack. We are firefighters. Firefighters wear their gear.
Firefighters are smart people. Use the tools available to protect yourselves. If you are pumping the truck, at least put your pants and coat on and be ready to assist if needed if you don’t have the manpower to support the mission. Chief Officers arriving on the car; you expect your guys to wear their gear, where is yours? Lead by example. Even though you are a Chief, you are STILL a firefighter first and foremost.
In a world of social media, camera phones, and the rapid transfer and receipt of information, public perception in the fire service is paramount. It affects the ability to obtain funding, the ability to secure public confidence and the building of community support. What is the perception you present to the community when you don’t don your gear to fight a fire? Joe citizen may even ask, “why do we even use tax dollars to pay for that gear if they don’t even use it.” Remember public perception in everything you do as an organization. Are you giving the community the performance that you want them to remember or it is the dress rehearsal that wasn’t supposed to be released yet?
Am I guilty of lacking the turnouts department? Yes. When I came up in the fire service less gear was better. I heard the phrase “man up” from time to time. With the changing fire service, organizations I belong to created a culture that took pride in wearing our gear. One may even say that we “over” wear our gear. I just love to wear my gear.
In closing, be smart with your choice of PPE. Your health depends on it. Don’t take unnecessary risks. We have the tools to deal with it. Use them wisely. We all want to go home to our families. Represent your organization by projecting an image of professionalism.
Be safe, smart, and treat every day as game day.