Happy New Year!
Recently I was on my way to work and marveling at the sunrise (I get a good shot of it going over the Cross Island bridge on the way to my station) and got to remembering one call where a person dove off that very same bridge. I was thinking, if you’re going to pick someplace to move on from, that’s a pretty scenic spot to do so. It also brought up to me the dichotomy of risk vs. reward.
While the individual I was remembering had a reputation for making daring but risky decisions, you have to understand the motivator for someone like that. If you can pull it off, you’re a God. A stunt like that makes for a lot of interesting conversation later in life. The downside, however, is when you fail, you fail catastrophically.
When we choose to forgo a risk/benefit analysis, we do just that. In fire/rescue, the risk we take also involves death-defying heroism if you can pull it off, or grave consequences if you don’t. While diving off a bridge seems to be the start of interesting cocktail party conversation, failing to appreciate the impact when you hit the water (literally) or the swiftness of the current below indicates a lack of total understanding of the problem. When we plunge headlong into a fire with no idea of the conditions or into a rescue without considering the hazards that exist, we aren’t being professional. We are choosing bravado over intellect.
I’ll keep it short because I’m juggling a few projects, but appropriate risk/benefit analysis requires a total understanding of the situation. Failing that, at least a brief contemplation of the major risk involved is required. There are people in our business who don’t even think when they go into harm’s way. How many times in a media interview with “the hero” have you heard someone say, “I didn’t even think about it”. I’d be curious to know if we were able to interview those who didn’t make it; would they say the same thing?
Understand your situation and make intelligent decisions, not irrational ones. It’s the difference between the steadfast and respected commander and the impulsive private. If you want to be a leader, act like a leader.