Five Hundred and Five – Abandonment

webimg_0689This is the five hundred and fifth post for Firehouse Zen. I would probably have called attention to number five hundred, but it was in the middle of the series honoring my brother’s 50th birthday and didn’t want to distract from THAT celebration. That is a lot of writing over a lot of days.  If you haven’t gone way back, you might not know that this blog spans my last months as a truck company captain all the way through my career as a battalion chief, and into my current role as a deputy fire chief. Firehouse Zen documented my personal observations of global emergency service issues during those times, but is deliberately vague in regard to my own issues in leadership. I do this in order to avoid portraying anything that might be construed as a representation of the many entities I am associated with, something writers find themselves doing inadvertently and getting in trouble at the “day job” for doing so.

However, and this is an observation of the general population and so be extension, people I work with as well, I have a problem with the constant problem- that of being able to cause positive and beneficial change.

The biggest issue in the fire service, EMS, and in society is that everyone feels like they have a right to weigh in on a subject without knowing the whole situation. The biggest result of that is people run their mouths about the problem, but they fail to create a solution. Criticism isn’t constructive if one just points out the flaws, but never seeks to educate.  My long running mantra has been, “Don’t raise your voice unless you intend to raise your fists.”  In more civil terms, don’t open your mouth about a problem unless you happen to have a solution.

Let’s put it in terms maybe some of the mouth breathers can understand. You are dispatched to a report of a man down, unknown cause. On arrival you find the individual lying on a street corner, deeply unresponsive. There is blood evident around his chest. As firefighters, medics, or just plain ol’ people on the street, we realize there is a situation and it isn’t a good one. Gently rolling the victim over we find a gunshot to the chest. The victim is still alive, but has a sucking chest wound. If we don’t take action soon, they will surely die.

Instead, we leave. We abandon the patient.

This is indirectly how Firehouse Zen came to be. By seeing a problem, namely a reluctance of individuals to engage, understand, evaluate, and develop new solutions, I felt it was important to share solutions, not point out problems. If I simply blast the latest thing someone does wrong, I am not a leader. If I trumpet about how I wouldn’t do “that”, not knowing the whole situation, I am guilty of making decisions based on assumption.

As real leaders, I agree our task is to investigate the causes and issues regarding our world. But the continued part of that where we have so much failure is the reluctance to educate, coach, seek understanding, and create beneficial change.

I read the comments sections of many articles and blogs at my own peril.  As I have said often, I am appalled at the lack of consideration, the arrogance, and the fallacies that I see there.  I don’t know that change is possible with those individuals- they have closed their mind to the possibility that they could themselves be in a very similar situation, or that they don’t even really know what they are talking about. On occasion, I make the observation that they need to consider the other parts to the picture that they don’t see. Sometimes that works- sometimes it does not. But in your fire station, your duty location, or wherever else you happen to read what I write, we all hear individuals in our midst that have plenty to say about any given issue, but they have no idea how to solve it, or worse, they have an idea of how to solve it that hasn’t considered ALL the ramifications.  And some of those cures happen to be worse than the disease.

When we identify a problem, our job as a leader is to do something about it.  Leaders take the resources at hand, marshal them appropriately, and put them to work.  Sometimes as leaders we see problems and don’t have the resources; in those moments, there comes a decision- is the situation serious enough to warrant more drastic action? Or is it something that isn’t really as big of a deal as another bigger, more potentially catastrophic problem.  Think of it as arriving at that corner scene and finding two patients instead: the GSW and an individual with a broken leg. It’s not that the leg isn’t a problem, but it can wait.  If we don’t put a seal on the chest, a man will die. We don’t give up because we can do neither well, we do what we can with what we have and get more resources. And if the resources simply aren’t coming, we have to decide what is more likely to be saved, or more likely to benefit the whole.

In five hundred and five posts so far, for the most part, I have tried to convey this. So long as people have opinions and a place to share them, we will have ignorance. I’m hoping that in my next 495 posts perhaps I can chip away at that problem a little more.

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