By Dave Werner
As firefighters we are expected to provide protection for our communities. When people dial 911, we show up no questions asked. When we arrive on scene people breathe a sigh of relief. Why do they do this? Because just the sight of a firetruck and a bunch of firefighters puts people at ease. People expect us to mitigate whatever problem is at hand, big or small.
We are expected to be able to handle any situation we encounter. Think about that for a second. That means anything and everything, from the everyday runs to the once in a life time runs. That is a huge responsibility! That is the expectation put upon us when we step into the fire service, like it or not.
What do we do with these expectations? How well do you think we tend to do in living up to these expectations?
First and foremost we need to hold ourselves accountable to these expectations. If we can’t commit ourselves to this level of service than we have some serious soul searching to do. Living up to these expectations will require a career long endeavor in learning and training. Anything less than this will result in us failing to live up to these expectations. Remember, it’s not about us. It’s about the people we serve.
Looking past personal accountability we need officers who have the courage to hold their crews to these expectations. As an officer, your number one priority is getting your people home at the end of the shift. What are you doing to work towards this goal? Are you actively pushing your people towards improvement? As the formal leader of the group you have a responsibility to plainly lay out these expectations, and then set the example. Unless you fulfill these two steps you will be failing yourself, your crew, and the people you serve.
Chiefs and other higher ups have equally as much responsibility to ensure they communicate these expectations to their people. Too often we assume that people either already know these expectations, or that someone else is enforcing them. Don’t fall into this trap! Get with your people and plainly lay out these expectations and why they are important. Just because you are confined to an office does not mean that your responsibility to communicate expectations has disappeared. You owe it to your people to make sure that they fully understand the expectations that exist for them. Not only this, but it is up to you to see to it that your people have the time and resources to be able to meet these expectations.
This is serious business. If no one is thinking about or acting on these expectations then there is no reason for us to even exist. We exist because people trust in us to fix their problems. If we are not ready to fix their problems then we have failed. Being ready and prepared to take care of these problems is our sole purpose, and as such should receive ample attention. We must not lose sight of why we are here. Step up to the plate and begin living up to the expectations of being a firefighter. It’s about more than t-shirts and big red trucks. The people we serve are depending on us to be professionals. As always, stay smart, and stay combat ready!