Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighter Training, Firefighting

Speaking Well for the Fire Service

Issue 4 and Volume 167.

BY CRAIG SCHWINGE Firefighters are pretty good at talking. Much of our culture is formed around the firehouse table in conversations that many times are direct, off-the-cuff, and inappropriate for the average living room audience. I don’t expect that many firefighters signed up so that they could stand in front of a camera and talk with reporters. Most of the firefighters I have been fortunate to work with are observant and intelligent and excel at delivering verbal messages (sometimes with a little added body language for emphasis). However, I’ve also observed otherwise confident, competent, and experienced firefighters succumb to the “fright or flight” syndrome and, on one occasion, sweat profusely, have shaking knees, stutter, and make unintelligible noises when in front of a reporter’s camera and microphone. These are not particularly attractive characteristics for our otherwise handsome, turnout-clad colleagues. Like effective firefighting, public speaking is a skill that is learned…

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