The Voice Behind “Why We Search”

By Ray McCormack
Publisher/Editor, Urban Firefighter Magazine

There has always been a requirement that radio stations hire people with distinctive voices and deliveries. A new star of radio and voice over production has just surfaced for the people of Ohio and the world to hear: The golden voice of Ted Williams fills our brains with pleasure at the release of even the most common of words. The emergence of Mr. Williams – assisted by a news reporter – now tells the story of hidden wealth within a man that no one seemed to recognize or value.

Once Mr. Williams’ ‘insta-fame’ subsides, he is expected to start on a new career of sustainability and worth – and abandon homelessness. He no longer is expected to scatter if threatened; he has increased value now. The fire service has always valued all equally via operational neutrality. Fireground operations have never been based upon social or economic status. If the fire service wishes to sustain and build public support, talk of gradient operations based upon perceived customer value must cease. Not only is it patently offensive, it is morally offensive.

Buildings are evaluated, not people; this is a point that must be understood. The fire service cannot be held over a burn-barrel when it comes to using a new size-up point that incorporates less risk for the ‘lesser of society.’ It is about people’s lives, both civilian and firefighters – a true “Everyone”.

Additional operational procedures and safeguards that provide a heightened approach to firefighting is our duty to discover and work towards. Some authors and their works’ commentary now ask if an evaluation of whether vagrants are worth looking for in a burning building is warranted? They are – and always have been. The fire service does not need a cultural change that disparages and devalues a segment of the population socioeconomically, dismissively sentencing them to discovery during overhaul.

Our culture of equal service for all works just fine: The search for Mr. Williams has ended happily. Not all searches have a happy ending, but firefighters who take on the mission of saving lives wherever they may seek shelter – and regardless of community standing – understand this. This voice of understanding provides community safety and sounds good to me.

RAY McCORMACK is a 28-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York and a lieutenant with Ladder 28 in Harlem. He was previously assigned to Engine 69 for more than 10 years. He is a contributor to Fire Engineering, WNYF, and other fire service magazines and Web sites. He helped to develop Training Minutes for FireEngineering.com, for which he contributes tips on engine tactics. He is the founder of liveburntraining.com, which provides firefighter training and benefit seminars. He delivered the Keynote Speech at FDIC 2009.