Complacency

I have probably spoken before of complacency.  Complacency is a subject that seems to surface repeatedly in our business, a business that requires constant vigilance.  It strikes all of us at one point or another.  The cure, sadly enough, seems to be getting stung.  And in a further moment of unfortunate circumstance, on occasion the sting is accompanied by death, severe injury, or catastrophic loss.

And since we all understand that complacency in the fire service is a topic on which everyone is reminded to guard against,  it happens routinely, and to the most unlikely of subjects.  I myself have been shaken out of complacency, years ago, with a near miss, and vowed to never repeat it.  But time after time, like water wearing away at a stone, repeated non-events lull us into the belief that the next one will just be one more in a long line of non-events.  When the long shot pays off, it can be a doozy.

Just as we get complacent on alarms, the public sector fire service has become fat and happy in the belief that no one would dare upset our world by privatizing it, merging it, or re-sourcing it.  We are firefighters!  Everyone loves firefighters!  No one would dare go against us.  We are heroes, after all. Well, just read this article on FireRescue1.com. These issues, although we have been saying they were coming for years, are now upon us.  If you don't believe it, look around.  The public is sick of hearing about firefighters milking their pensions, taking questionable disability benefits, stealing from their organizations, and lighting fires.  We are no longer pristine.  We have permitted the scum bags to infiltrate our ranks.  We are fair game.

Times are tough.  People see us as having while they don't.  If there is anything more energizing to the haters, it is the thought of "heroes" becoming the "anti-heroes".  It is the foundation of expose and justice denied that calls for every Geraldo wannabe to man a video camera and find the next Watergate saga.  If there is something delicious about failure, it is much more tasty when the shock of failure is accompanied by the role a trusted individual has in creating it.

Change is near on the horizon and while there are those of us shouting it from the rafters, it seems like there are many who continue to ignore the warnings.  What you believe to be true today may very well be heresy tomorrow.  If you fail to evolve, to get your stakeholders involved in your mission, or to understand the changing tide of support, you may well be clinging to the remains of what used to be while the rest go sailing down the road.

Just as we preach to our new firefighters that complacency kills, so should the vested leadership of our collective organizations be warned: complacency will be the demise of what you currently hold dear.  You can appreciate change and master it, or let it master you.  One way or another, it is on the way.

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  • Jon Marsh

    Would'nt it be great if we firefighters gave back to our respective community's without expecting something for it ? When we're out doing pre incident survey's or returning from a call , why don't we look at the folks we serve, where they live and what obvious needs     we can help them with. For instance a gutter hanging loose, a low limb growing over the roof. a screen door without screen. A  porch with a board missing from the floor. A yard needing debris cleared. When those we serve see us with kind intentions and not accepting pay for those kind acts, our credibility grows in their hearts as well as others we work with. Complacency is dangerous in all aspects and as a wise old firefighter friend of Chief Ed Croker said back in 1911 " An unhealthy ambition for public applause,will be dangerous."

  • Chief 72

    Well said Brother!

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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.
Recent Posts
Comments
Colin Fanning
The Roto-Ray: Beauty or Beast?
One of the most important facts we reviewed when deciding on the roto ray purchase was this; With the speeds of traffic on SC 278, by the time people heard the sirens on our fire trucks our light bars (on top of the roof) were out of sight. The roto ray, with its mounted location…
2014-07-25 15:07:00
Mick Mayers
Questioning Heroism
Thanks, Bryan! I genuinely believe I do and they tend to reward me with professionalism, innovation, and compassion to our citizens daily. That's something I am happy to facilitate.
2014-07-15 04:10:00
Bryan G. Riebe
Questioning Heroism
Chief, appreciated in your response to Geoff that you work for the FFs. Believe if more Chiefs lived that philosophy our fire services would be bastions of honor, ethics, and human potential.
2014-07-15 00:05:00
Christopher Roy
Questioning Heroism
Geoff, EMS, as its own service, does not have a strong voice and in turn, does not get the respect in the media/public that it does deserve. I do hope that changes. EMS doesn't have a home either, and that doesn't help. There are so many different delivery methods in this country that its probably…
2014-07-14 23:49:00
Mick Mayers
Questioning Heroism
I'm sorry you feel that way, Geoff. The department I work with has been doing EMS (advanced care AND transport) with cross-trained personnel for over twenty years and doing a pretty good job. Our community expects a certain level of service that we have been able to provide through that model and while not every…
2014-07-14 22:01:00

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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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