So, continuing on my theme of pissing off the vast majority of the fire service with the intention of waking you up, I am going to go ahead and tell you that there is a huge difference between what you all believe to be our jobs and the reality of our jobs. This is a recurring theme in our "business", because you know what, it IS a business. It is a business because we have to, like it or not, adopt good fiduciary management; we have to market our organization; we have to "sell" our product. In short, we as a fire service, at the national, state, regional, and local levels, do all the things we have to do to survive, because if you hadn't noticed, we are at war.
War sounds a little dramatic, but I'm really trying to awaken you to what is occurring, and being nicey-nice about it doesn't seem to be working. As an unscientific gauge to why it isn't working, I took a little look around the internet.
Let me begin by pointing out that I have no issues with the sites I am speaking of; their authors have done an extraordinary job of finding their market niche and giving the people what they want. That is rule number one in business. So using that business logic, the demographic I am going after here, no exclusions intended, are 25-34 year old white males (Sorry, but those are the numbers). Why those numbers, you ask? Good question; the people I am trying to reach are those who overwhelmingly prefer the sugary snack of scantily clad women in fire apparel, lots of fire pictures, and tough, adrenaline filled talk.
I already have a readership of enlightened men and women who think outside of their positions and who prefer reading about concepts that will help them lead others. The demographic that is affecting the change in the fire service, however, are those 25-34 year old white males who refuse to put down the toys, stop bitching, and realize that this job isn't day care for teenagers anymore. That demographic I speak of is the demographic of the American Fire Service, and coincidentally, the one that everyone dances around when they are trying to elevate our traditions above being endless cannon fodder for the fires we fight.
Yes, there are many of you reading this who might take exception to this and frankly, I am you, so stop whining. I have been and in a way, still am one of those people. But above that, however, I took the stance that I would be visionary and forward-thinking in my approach to this blog, and I would seek ways to lead and improve our industry so that we could continue on into the future. And being honest, the approaches that many of you/us are taking will doom our tradition if we don't wake up and evolve.
The short-sighted approach that many firefighters seem to take is that we are a necessary evil. "If you don't like it, tough, because there will always be fires and you will always need us." "We are the only show in town." "We don't need to be nice because if we aren't, who are you going to call?" If we behave like a bunch of frat boys, we are saying, the community will look past our antics and realize we are providing a service that they can't afford to replace with a new model.
Well, I have news for you all. That new model is being trotted out everywhere. Communities across this country are overwhelmingly sick and tired of the liability of having juveniles running things at the company levels. The chiefs they hire are people with education, people with a business acumen, people who are aware that they have to make hard decisions to rein in spending. They will do it regardless of whether you agree with them or not; remember how "wildly popular" Iacocca and Welch were at their companies when they came in, cut the fat, and fired people? If you don't, it's because most of you in that 25-34 year old demographic were infants then. But what YOU know of these guys is that they turned around companies who were near failure and brought them back into power. Well, if you think your fire chiefs haven't read anything on these guys, then you are delusional.
I hear tales from my friends who aren't chief officers about what the "chiefs" are doing to the fire service all the time. I tell them that it isn't what the chiefs are doing to the fire service, but what the economy, education, technology and the political will of the elected is doing to the fire service. We are simply managing the changes, and if you don't like it, well, there's not much we can do about it, is there? We can agree to resist change that will affect safety and efficiency, but the arguments thrown up by the unions and the firefighters are widely unconvincing: "People will die if we close this station." Well, they might and they might not. "Firefighters will die if this staffing isn't maintained." Well, again, they might and they might not. The reality is that to counter these proposals, you need facts. Provable, verifiable, scientific facts. Some people are striving to provide those facts. Overwhelmingly, however, YOU are not, everytime you scoff at the need for documenting, researching, or validating as being "desk jockey" material. And that's a whole blog post in itself.
Why don't you chew on this for a few days and tell me what you think? Trust me, there is much more I plan to say, but I'll probably have to break it down a little. If you are truly the apathetic individuals I speak of, I'm pretty sure there will just be stunned silence. Or you may just tune me out after seeing there's more than one paragraph and go back to the titty blogs. Either way, it's not what I do to make things continue on, it's what YOU do. I'm nearing the end of MY career and I have lots of great memories. But whether you have memories like those or not depends on what you are willing to do to change things.