Recently I was dwelling on an inventory of stupid and dangerous things I have done in the past. Since the list was way too long to go on about, I began to wonder why I did those things. While some of them were from my youth (like jumping off a roof with an umbrella), and some were from my bachelorhood (getting my Suzuki GS750E up to very unsafe speeds), it occurred to me that a lot of them occurred during my adolescence after watching the movie “Hooper“. At no time during any of those periods did I have a suicide wish- I didn’t WANT to die- but in my mind, I hadn’t really given it much thought. I hadn’t fully considered the consequences.
You can put the dangers out in front of someone in back and white. You can paint the picture for them in classes and education. You can bore them to death with your blog, like I do. I think that what it really comes down to, though, is that unless you have a very graphic experience with death and understand not only the implications on you, but on others, I don’t think most people can really grasp the message.
There is a lot to be said for working in our business. I have seen my share of people ejected from vehicles to convince me that wearing a seatbelt is a good thing. I have seen enough burned homes to understand that being fire safe will head off a lot of heartache. But no matter what, we have people who ride in fire apparatus without seatbelts and won’t keep their fire station free of hazards, and then they wonder how they end up on the national news wire. Risk vs. benefit doesn’t have to be limited to the fireground.
I enjoy fighting fires, but some of the fires I used to fight still baffle me. I have literally put everything on the line for an unsavable building before and to what end? They tore down the building later. But we still have people charging into fires, like they just want to roll in it for a little while. Well, the excitement of the fire is one thing, but I’ve actually seen what a fire can do to someone, so you’ll have to excuse my reluctance to get up close with it and get to know it better.
As emergency service leaders, we need to remind ourselves that just because we used to play in the street when we were kids doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Riding on tailboards and charging into unsafe buildings was fun until we saw people dying from those decisions. Be the grown-up and help point out to your personnel that just because things used to be one way, we have actually learned from our mistakes and it only makes sense to avoid these problems in the future. Revisiting them for experience’ sake isn’t fun, it’s just stupid.