Distance Separates Us

ladder talk webDistance separates us.  Of course it does, you are probably thinking.  That’s not that much of a revelation.  But distance separates us all the more so because by being distant, or more so, by not being alike, it also indicates a schism between you and I.  The fire and emergency services are united in our history, but at some point we evolved into many different representations of the same idea: service to others.  As to whether that space can be broached or not is the big question.  While we can all claim brotherhood and a desire to do this job, whether we are career or not; whether we are urban or not; whether we provide EMS or not; and a whole host of other differences keep us from effectively saying “We Are One”.

Over the past decade, the efforts Dave Iannone and Chris Hebert have put together brought a lot of us old crusties to the digital age.  These innovative experiences took firefighters (and non-firefighters) from around the world and brought us closer together.   But while this has been a good thing because I now know and can better understand the perspectives of a volunteer firefighter in Moosejaw, AK as well as a firie in New South Wales, Australia, it is saddening because I see some of what I had hoped not to see.

Although I was first promoted to officer rank in 1985, I’m afraid I wasn’t a very good officer.  Sure I could run tactics and make sure people were doing their jobs, but I lacked maturity and looking back on it, depth.   In 1988, my eyes were opened.  During a weekend seminar on Fire Service Leadership, Chief Harry Diezel (Ret, Virginia Beach Fire Department) opened my eyes and put me on the path that I have since continued along.  Twenty years ago, this guy said that networking was one of the single most important elements of leading. Yes, twenty years ago.

I quickly found out what firefighting was and was not about.  In that one class, I realized that there was firefighting, there was being a fire officer, and there was fire service leadership.  While I never had the opportunity to work with Chief Diezel, his words have never left me.  Although some of his ideas still are met with resistance from some of our colleagues and did that weekend from people in the class, the ideas have only been confirmed over the years to me as his concept of emergency service delivery made Virginia Beach one of the model departments of the Eighties.  Over the years, people like Howard Cross, a legendary instructor at the National Fire Academy, have also reinforced those concepts to me.

Like these individuals did for me, I have always wanted to do for others.  Firehouse Zen is part of that legacy.  I want others to look at this job with renewed perspective, to comprehend, rather than simply demonstrate knowledge.  To understand, rather than to just repeat memorized information.  To seek alternatives, to improve, and to be about positive change rather than to be about the status quo.

FireEMSBlogs.com is just a natural evolution of sharing this body of knowledge.  Dave and Chris have done a tremendous job to bring us together and to allow us to share experiences, to bond, and to better appreciate the situation each of us must face daily.  We have, however, light years ahead of us and so long as we refuse to acknowledge that our differences are actually a good thing, we will never be united.

To effect change, we must seek to understand.  To understand, we have to be presented with knowledge and that knowledge comes from others.  As the internet bridges the miles and brings our world closer together, we are finding that we share a lot more than we thought we had in common, and yet we also find ourselves unwilling to accept the views of others and even assault those who happen to share a contrarian view.  In order to grow, it is imperative that we open our minds and take the tools we are given, and use them to the best advantage.  Do us all a favor this year; point a colleague toward some of the networking opportunities out there, especially the one afforded by FireEMSBlogs.com, and tell them that there’s no time like the present to start working toward tomorrow.


  • Ted Bownas says:

    Great post, Mick. Wish I had the time and wherewithal to attend some of the bigger conferences. The Internet, as you say, has made huge strides in improving networking and communications the past few years…but face-to-face is still my favorite way to meet new people.

    BTW, you used “affect” in the final paragraph, when I think you meant “effect”. As a fellow member of FOGIES, I felt obliged to point that out. 😉

  • truck6alpha says:

    Thanks for the comment and I’m glad to see you’re still speaking to me 🙂 The Internet has definitely made things a lot different and although face-to-face is preferable, in some cases it can’t be done expediently, so what better method…and in regard to “effect”, it’s nice to know I have proof-reading reinforcement at my beck and call. Thanks for the edit recommendation! (I’ll get on it).

  • Patrick W. Mayers says:

    Mick good job. Maturity is not easily learned in a classroom but like tactics you need both the school and mentors to take you to the next level. Sometimes things are learned by others poor leadership and some by your own mistakes. Remember to be respectful and listen to what others have to say but when you wear the stars & bars the final decision is in your hands.

  • Tim Kuntz says:

    Great post!!

  • Jeremy Black says:

    Thanks for yet another great post, Chief.

    I have found that I can learn more in one sitting over a few sodas with an experienced leader just talking, one on one than I can glean from an objective-based lesson plan which teaches a test that gets me another cert. This the type of networking that is invaluable- and on the decline.

    Now, one of our challenges is to take the opportunities given us by the team at FireEMSblogs.com and find a way to share the knowledge that’s out there in a similar manner- but over the internet rather than a beer.

    Once we’ve built up an “electronic family”, we might be fortunate enough to develop a group attitude that won’t put up with the sniping we’ve been seeing. I’m sure you would agree that there is still plenty of power in peer pressure. If enough of us refuse to accept the assaults by publicly decrying them, we may see a little less “anonymous muscles” commenting.

    Posts like yours are a step in that direction, and we should all follow your lead.

    Finally, we should seek out opportunities to continue to meet in person. With FDIC approaching, we can take that final step to solidify the bonding we’ve built up and personally network – maybe over a pop at Shula’s or the RAM?

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