But Wait! There’s More!

There is more to what we do than just "fighting fires".

In a fit of laziness, and believing fell well that I was smarter than any ol’ blogging software, I tried to use a previous blog to shortcut the addition of categories and tags. áOf course, this resulted in my changing forever the URL of that post and with my already poor memory, forgetting the previous one so I could revert to it once again. áAnd no, I already tried just going back to a previous version.

Thus our Zen lesson of the day: When it may seem like you are saving time, often, it costs more time to fix when you screw it up. áThis, however, comes back around to the reason for the post to begin with.

As I said in “Hogs To The Trough“, we have been our own worst enemy. áWe have failed, on any number of levels, to “sell” our message to the people who need to hear it most. áGetting the message out requires effort that some of our brothers and sisters simply don’t see as a priority. áWe are, as I have heard so many times before, the “only show in town”. áI’m pretty sure the refrain to that is, “You have no choice but to call us when your house is on fire”. áThis has been the argument of the Anti-Customer Service crowd for a very long time. áIn fact, since before some of you little nippers were born.

If we were doing such a great job, this would be a no-brainer. áCut emergency service spending, people die. áWell, if that were absolutely true, I’d bet we’d be hearing a lot more screaming from the public. áWhile I believe strongly that cutting emergency service spending does result in a greater flirtation with disaster and mortality, the realization from the public is, we cut emergency service spending and guess what? áNo one died yet.

These are the same people who, when faced with the addition of a traffic light at the busiest intersection in town, cry and complain in the newspaper and at meetings about the inconvenience, only to cry and complain about the lack of public safety consideration when a family of four dies at said intersection. áThen, of course, that horse has already fled the barn, but by God, there’d better be a traffic light at that intersection before the weekend or heads will roll.

There are no switches for turning on the message or turning it off. áIf you aren’t preaching the Gospel daily, the audience doesn’t hear the message when everyone is shouting and it’s too loud to hear. áOur presence in our communities has to be a daily event, so that when you are silenced, it is deathly quiet, and people realize, “Hey, something is wrong here.” áIf you are saving homes and businesses from fire through your prevention message and excellent response and mitigation, you need to trumpet that to the rafters, and regularly. áIf your community sees a benefit in early recognition of cardiac arrest, advantageous placement of AEDs, and the presence of a well-trained, well-equipped tiered medical response, you need to share that.

There are no shortcuts to this. áCommunicating the message of the value of your organization must be done constantly. áThis isn’t a one-individual task either; it has to be at the very heart of your organizational culture, that service to the community isn’t just a good idea, it is the core of our existence. áWhen we fail to provide an excellent service, the taxpayers will remember it come budget time. áIf we piss off the masses, they will be the first to stand silent when we are losing personnel, apparatus, equipment, training, and every other enhancement, because frankly, your existence is invisible to them. áGiven the choice between funding you and not funding you, if the effect is only a subjective loss (just because you SAY people will die, doesn’t mean they will), they are more willing to take the chance of not funding your needs.

My wife owns a flooring retail and installation company, KPM Flooring, here on Hilton Head Island. áShe is the sole proprietor. She has a vision of what the organization represents to her customers. áShe doesn’t wait for you to read her mind to find out what that vision is. áShe doesn’t wait for you to come in looking for tile or a beautiful area rug to show you what things could be like in your home. áShe creates (herself, I might add) advertisement that portrays her company as being “sophisticated”, “classy”, “exclusive’, “original”, and “innovative”. áThose words are in quotes because these are comments we have gotten from people who have viewed her website or her print advertisement. áAnd you know what? áThey have found this to be true and have told their neighbors, families, friends, etc. áWe probably advertise less than Brand X, but where we advertise and the message we send says: If I want a really classy look to my home or business, I need to go to KPM Flooring.

Getting your message out requires you to have an idea what you want your message to be, first. áMany emergency service organizations haven’t even decided upon that concept yet. áThey are happy with the status quo. áThe status quo doesn’t require a bunch of effort. áThere’s a certain comfort to saying, “We’re okay with the idea the public thinks we are a tax burden, but they don’t have a choice. áYou know, because PEOPLE WILL DIE.”

We don’t want to change. áIf we did, we would do it willingly. áAs Pumbaa said, “You have to put your behind in your past“. áOr something like that. áIf we really do care about serving the public, we will get on board in getting them involved to find out what it is they need, and providing service for that need. áWhen we can do this, the community won’t PERCEIVE that they have a need for us, they will KNOW they have a need for us. áAnd when they do, you won’t have to worry about budget cuts again.

  • Jon Marsh

    Another inspiring article Chief! Keeping the trust and support of out of work taxpayers who feel cheated when they happen upon or pass a fire station where there appears to be no or low activity-ie. firefighters sitting on the front bumper of rig or in a lawn chair with feet proped up while reading a book, sends a negative message during these rough economic times. These are the times where we can send a very positive message to out-of-work or laid-off folks by scanning the neighborhoods around our firehouse, get to know the neighbors, find out who needs help with their lawn or a window replaced or a mailbox staightened or a rotted out porch step replaced…get out and do it on your own time, fix things for your neighbors-for free ! You will gain new friends, and support from them when your job is threatened by a layoff. Seems like that old golden rule plays a part here somewhere.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.

FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

Recent Posts
Excused Absence September 6, 2015
This Is A Hate Speech June 27, 2015
Consequences May 30, 2015
Adversity May 15, 2015
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I agree with the first two people to comment, but I also agree with Barbara Lander Burger. Asking questions and speculating about the, or any, incident does not make anyone a "hater" in my opinion. I'm wondering why, in a house of 16,000 sq.ft., some or all residents could not move to the other end…
2015-08-06 01:00:00
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A year and a half ago, suicide made me a very young widow and left three baby girls without the daddy they loved terribly. This my friend, was beautifully stated, thank you!
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Michael "Mick" Mayers
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Thanks! I will add that!
2015-03-30 00:23:03
Reaching Out – Talking About Suicide to Prevent It
Mick, well said and I would add the Firefighters Behavioral Alliance run by Jeff Dill who has done extensive work in the area with firefighters and Rosecrance Florian program and Dan DeGryse of CFD who can also provide assistance and help.
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Happy belated birthday to you!
2015-03-22 12:03:04

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Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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