A few weeks ago, there was a tragic sequence of events that occurred in a community in our county. While working a medical alarm, a City of Beaufort fire engine was stolen by a man, who in his flight, killed a pedestrian as well as struck a number of cars. Talk about your "Swiss cheese modeling"; short of an astronomical syzygy, I'm pretty sure you can't find a better alignment of factors to recreate that event again. If you saw that in a movie, you'd think, "How stupid! A man escapes from a military hospital, finds an idling fire engine, and escapes his pursuers. It isn't likely to happen." But it did.
Things happen every day that defy logic. Truth, as it is said, is often stranger than fiction.
Deep down inside, we might say to ourselves, "That could never happen here." Or we feel it coming up and we suppress it, because we know, if we were ever to actually verbalize that, it WOULD happen. But we are all guilty of seeing something happen and thinking that we are either too good, too well-trained, too attentive to the details, too big of a department, or even too remotely disconnected from "big city" problems for certain events to transpire. It just won't happen to us.
This is something that happens in families as well. I know people who are perfect parents and their children defy any reasonable expectation of success. I know parents who have no business reproducing who have amazing children. I know fire or EMS agencies that I can't believe, due to their ineptness, that they haven't facilitated some major catastrophe. And I know the most professional organizations ever who have had arsonists surface among their ranks, or they lose firefighters, or they burn down an entire zip code.
Unfortunately, right now public servants have a target drawn on their back. Some of our brothers have actually drawn it on there for us. We are in a profession (career and volunteer alike) that used to be considered trustworthy, honorable, valiant, and courageous. We have a few mutts in our midst who have caused people to think otherwise. The job hasn't changed, nor has the opinion MOST people have of public servants, but the fact is that when someone can paint "firefighters" or "EMTs" in a convenient picture and wrap it up in an emotional context, they gain attention. And so long as we tolerate membership from those who give us a black eye, we continue to enable that perception.
Our business has enough danger, innuendo, drama, and everything else that we don't need to add to it by tolerating personnel with bad attitudes, carelessness, or poor morale. We have to seek the causes of these problems and root them out. We have to be positive and focused on the service we provide and how we improve that delivery daily. We must reward people for doing things right and remediate those who do things wrong. But even when we do all these things right, our team might have someone swimming below the surface, counter to our culture or our expectations, who is intentionally or unintentionally, just waiting to pop to the surface.
If you really want to change the minds of others, the first step in doing so is by exuding professionalism yourself. Nobody is going to follow your advice if you aren't in front leading the charge. If everyone in emergency service had that mentality, it would be a lot easier to bring the rest of the world forward. But remember, even in the best of situations, even with thorough planning and training and coaching, sometimes things go wrong with no real expectation. Our job as leaders is to minimize the risk of those events occurring, be proactive and engaged, and to present alternatives that eliminate those bodies from lining up.