Reminding You of Why We Are Here

As things change, so must we.  If we fail to evolve, we become unnecessary, irrelevant, or even extinct. Especially since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, workplace development has improved efficiency and those who understood the changes and made  adjustments to them thrived, those who did not, were left by the side of the road. Firefighting is a lot like that, except that we have the emotional ties of a very highly-respected tradition chained around both feet. Once the populace catches on that it is cheaper for them to protect their home through automation they can trust, we will no longer be in business.

One of the main reasons, I would speculate, that we have not been simply replaced by automatic sprinklers is not because the general populace respects firefighters. It is because Joe Citizen is afraid of a head activation flooding all the floors of their home like what happens in stupid characterizations seen on TV or in movies.  If all we have to do is come mop up after an activation, firefighting isn’t going to be the issue; water-removal and restoration is.  So perhaps that is our avenue to survive.

But the point of my coming back to you all twice a week (for the most part) is to coach you all in survival by brainstorming ways we can provide a better service. The most logical way to do so is to leverage the collective brainpower of those who work with you.  And the only way that will ever bubble to the surface is by having leadership that engages, encourages, and demonstrates transformation. That's where I come in: helping you to understand and embrace transformational leadership.

Being a leader that guides people not based on preserving their jobs but on what that job actually is – serving others – THAT will preserve jobs.  Because as departments that have incorporated all-hazards response have found, there is plenty of work to be had, it’s just not necessarily in fighting fires.

People need individuals and teams that can see a problem and “bring what they brought” to develop a workable solution.  They called us because they lacked resources; tools, knowledge, skills, and/or manpower to solve their problem.  Our job isn’t firefighting, our job is problem-solving.  As was brought up by a comment in an earlier blog, "The Fixers", we aren’t firefighters, per se, but emergency service technicians.  And even then, that’s a reach, because not everything we go to solve is an “emergency”, as I am reminded each time our crews go to help someone get off the floor and back into bed.

I am reminded of a firefighter saying to me once, “Why do we go to these calls?  They aren’t emergencies.”

My answer: “They are to the person who calls us.”

Think about that the next time you are performing a task for a citizen that you don't really want to be doing.  While we like to believe it's all lights and sirens and saving babies and scantily clad women, it isn't.  It is about helping others when they don't know what to do.  As Bill Carey pointed out in that comment, kids don't grow up wanting to be "emergency response technicians", but wanting to be "firefighters".  And the reason why isn't necessarily because we fight fires, it is because they grow up knowing that if they are in trouble somehow, a firefighter is someone they can count on.

For that reason alone, you should be proud that when someone is in need, they call for a firefighter.

  • http://twitter.com/richmistkowski Rich Mistkowski

    Good points Mick. We all need people we can count on. As volunteers, we’re part of our communities, but when we respond to calls, it never ceases to amaze me that we are no longer neighbors, but we are looked at a “problem solvers”. For some reason, people look to us for solutions. And for some reason…most times…we seem to be able to come up with them!

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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.

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