Making Friends In Australia.

Making Friends In Australia.

I thought this morning I missed the cutoff for the First Due Blog Carnival.  Of course, as usual, I’m confused.  The link was to The Handover EMS Blog this month being hosted over at 999Medic. Since I’m all about keeping with the spirit of things, I’m going to post anyway, this month’s subject being “respect”.

Now while I haven’t read the other posts yet (I don’t want to be led in a certain direction), I want to call attention to the issue that so many of us in emergency services are bemoaning the “lack of respect” for our profession these days.  I’m going to make this short and sweet: you will never be afforded the respect you think you deserve if you can’t clean up the mess you have made.

We have continued, for decades, even centuries, to tolerate less than professional conduct from our “brothers”.  We have failed to embrace better methods of doing our jobs.  We have shunned safety over bravado.  We have permitted people to lead us who lack education and enlightenment.  We continue to resist standardization not for the sake of technical improvement but because “that’s not the way we do it here”.

This is as much about the fire service as it is about EMS.  I keep seeing battles popping up all over the place about whether the fire service is the best place for EMS, or third party, or whomever.  People, LET IT GO.  Communities must evaluate what suits them best and do that.  Different models work for different circumstances.  Continue to fight among each other at your own peril; the divisiveness is staggering.  We are in emergency services, all of us.  If we continue to beat each other up, we all continue to lose.  And when we lose, the community loses.

You want respect?  How about showing consideration and professional courtesy toward one another?  I went to comment on a blog yesterday and saw a terse statement about something along with a statement pretty much daring someone to reply.  For people to have a difference of opinion is acceptable; for someone to be daring someone to comment so they can exchange heated words, well, it’s reprehensible.

I had the opportunity to speak with a visiting delegation to our Town from Brazil yesterday.  I did a little research and opened up with a paragraph introducing myself and my position with the Town in Portugese.  I likely butchered it, but these visitors were immediately smiling and laughing (at my Portugese, I’m sure), but it opened us up to dialogue.  I spoke about the six weeks I spent on a similar exchange to Australia and the amazing experience I had and the memories I will have forever.

But what I spoke about mostly was how that experience made me realize that an entire world away, we were all really brothers and sisters.  We might speak a different language, but it sure as hell doesn’t make them idiots.  We have ideas and dreams and vision and it is muy importante that we share those ideas and dreams and visions and seek to understand what we can do not only to further our own goals, but to reciprocate, to help othters achieve their vision as well.

If we really want respect, we need to give respect.  How many times have you heard that one?  But so long as we go on with an entitled attitude, that the people we serve should be eternally grateful to us and bow down and kiss our asses on a daily basis, we will fail miserably to earn their respect.  To them, we are just another expenditure in the municipal budget.  We need to embrace a servant mentality, and even more so, we need to understand our own culture and how that interacts with the other cultures we deal with.  I’m not talking about foreign culture; I’m talking about the fabric of your neighborhood and community, and in a bigger sense, our emergency service world.


  • Regarding the public’s respect (or lack thereof) for our profession, you bring up some extremely valid points. Our cultural acceptance of poor behavior is beginning to bite us in the rear.

    Some within our organization have used the outpouring of public support from the Sept. 11 disasters as tacit approval for poor behavior. The “Americas Heroes” title was a pass for anything goes behavior out in public.

    America’s tolerance with that mentality faded along with the memories of the disaster. Economic factors compounded the issue. It’s hard to support poorly behaving firefighters when you are unemployed or you have had to take a huge pay cut to keep your job.

    The media has jumped on the “anti-public employee” bandwagon as well. Both print and electronic media run stories about high pension costs, inflated salaries and scandalous firefighter behavior. These stories appear on almost a daily basis.

    The economic components of the issue are cyclical. The behavioral components are more complicated. We need to do a better job of training our young in the art of public relations, continuous marketing and manners. A few lessons in discretion wouldn’t hurt either.

    Thanks for the post.

  • ChiefReason says:

    Excellent points that you make.
    “Respect” is an issue that has been cussed and discussed for sometime; most likely dating back to Benjamin Franklin, but it is one that continues to cause us problems.
    Respect starts with us. If we do not show each other respect, our communities will sense it and follow suit.
    Some of us have worked hard during our tenure to “clean up” our image and project professionalism despite the fact that, for many of us, our involvement has been in the volunteer sector. It shouldn’t matter if we get paid to be professional or not. Anyone who wants to put on the gear should do so with nothing but a professional attitude.
    Just when we think that we have passed the “beer drinking/bar brawling” stage, we see more arrests from our ranks for DUI or for fighting in full view of the public. Throw in the ones who steal or set fires and respect goes down quickly in flames.
    I have always prided myself in that, though I have spent my entire time for a small, volunteer department, I have been afforded respect from many of my peers.
    However and just recently, I received a reply in my most recent blog from a “pro” who said that my thinking was that of an “amateur”. My 30 years plus didn’t measure up to his, so apparently, in his mind, I didn’t make the cut.
    We ARE our own worst enemies when it comes to respect.
    I fully believe that respect is earned. I have spent my time trying to earn it and work every day to keep it.
    But, there are still those who populate the fire service who don’t feel the same way. In my situation with regards to the reply to my blog, I respectfully replied. But, I also felt sorry for him for the emptiness that he brings to the job.
    Keep putting it out there. It has an impact.

  • Dear Mick,
    I can’t answer the turf wars, as I am not in your profession. But divide and conquer is an old tactic and it works every time. Good on you for calling for unity.

    Nor can I knowledgeably reply to fire/ems culture. I do know that malefactors in every profession cannot really hide from those who work with them. Intervention is always a time-eater, but pays off in the long run.

    Bad behavior in fire professions is highlighted on the news–because–they Are still looked up to, or, people feel that they Should be able to look up to them. This has some benefits, but not w/o cost. I would think that would grow very tiring for the individuals involved. Also, there’s not much movement on top of a pedestal.

    So, to my mind the fall from grace is a vast opportunity to do as you suggest–learn how your culture interacts with other cultures. I think it puts the ‘new’ back in, when everything seems like it’s falling apart.

    Great post. I re-wrote my comment five times. Hope this gets the encouragement across.

    Ann T.

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