Letters to the Editor: November 2020

Bad math by Paul Combs
Paul Combs/Drawn by Fire

Life Skills for Life!

Regarding Thomas W. Castellow’s article “Solving the Fire Service’s Recruitment Crisis” (Volunteers Corner, August 2020), the author struck a chord about targeting recruitment and using today’s tools. His article was well organized and well presented, therefore inspiring and useful to readers. I suggest expanding the recruitment scope by focusing on people now working from home, especially younger homeowners.

What the volunteer fire service offers is “Life Skills for Life.” What a concept! Learn about electricity; using a ladder safely; better knots to tie down the load on your truck, boat, or car roof …. Building construction, safe chemical storage, small engines …. Why pay for a trip up the local rock wall? We’ll show you how for free. Interested in power tools? We have big ones! Lifting, leverage, cribbing …. First aid, situational awareness, CPR …. Want to practice your project management skills? We have projects, teams, and committees ….

Here are two personal examples: I learned effective meeting management in industry and used it to great effect in the fire service (as chair of the Oregon Governor’s Fire Service Policy Council in the 1990s). After learning effective overhead projector use at the Delaware State Fire School, I introduced it to a unit of the DuPont Company where I worked, which then adopted it for all presentations (in the 1970s). Life Skills for Life!

Jim Wick (Ret.)
Chandler, Arizona<

Is It Over Yet?

The year 2020 started off just like any other year around the firehouse. You had members in school adding to their “Rolodex® of knowledge.” You had members sitting on the couch just biding their time until retirement. You had youngsters yearning for knowledge and guidance. Well, that all abruptly ended with the ever growing and changing Covid-19 epidemic we now face. What is that old saying in the fire service? What are the two things firefighters hate the most? The way things are, and change. We certainly had a massive change come about to kick off 2020, and nothing has been the same since.

I have noticed two massive changes/issues we in the fire service community face now: training and the love for the job. Now, do not get me wrong. Change is a wonderful thing for the fire service. It has brought about many new, safe practices and innovations that have had a positive impact.

Training is, in my mind, the number one way to add to your Rolodex of knowledge, get senior members who feel stuck involved again, and fill the youngsters’ yearning for knowledge. Training allows us to come together as a whole and practice what we preach before putting it to the true test on the streets. Training was an issue right off the bat with all the social distancing concerns and disease transmission issues. It was nice to see, after a brief time of no training being held, that many departments and training companies went the digital route with online video platforms. Although it was nice to still be engaged in training, it was still lacking the social aspect of us all gathering at the station or in an acquired structure to put in some work.

I recently attended an online video meeting with 50-plus firefighters from around the country to discuss leadership tactics and fireground operations. It ended up being two hours of incredibly engaging conversation with firefighters I will never communicate with again in my career. We discussed issues that plagued departments across the country, and I realized that everyone was feeling the effects of the epidemic; no one is alone in the fight. Simply put, regardless of whether it’s in-person or online training, we owe it to ourselves to stay engaged.

How have the personnel on your crew changed since the beginning of the year? Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary? I have noticed a drastic change in many of our department’s members both positive and negative. Unfortunately, most changes have been negative, and it has certainly put a cramp in the side of many. I must admit, I too have been hit with some negative thoughts simply because I am human. I have loved this job since I set foot in the firehouse. I still love this job and do not see my love for it changing anytime soon. However, I struggle day in and day out with the uncertainty of what is to come. When will things go back to normal? I certainly hope it is sooner rather than later, but we do not have any idea of what is to come.

It is my prerogative to check on my brothers and sisters routinely. I have opened the complex issue with questions such as, “How you are doing?” The majority respond simply with, “Good, man, how are you?” Some, however, open up and fill me in on how much of a toll this is taking on them. We have sat on the pad with coffee in hand many a night reminiscing about the pre-CoviD-19 days. We talk about how ready we are for things to settle back down and return to status quo. My point is this: Talk with your crew, and share how you are feeling; they feel the same.

Yes, 2020 has been a bizarre year, but I have learned a lot about myself and the folks I work with. I cherish the days before Covid-19, and I certainly will cherish the days after this epidemic is under control.

Thomas Gross
Central Fire District
Smithville, Ohio
Training Captain
Seville Guilford (OH) Fire Department

Editor’s note: In Brady Robinette’s article, “Roadway Incident Operations: What Is the Right Helmet for the Job?” (October 2020), the last sentence in the article’s second paragraph should read: “In the first seven months of 2020, 30 roadway responders were struck and killed by vehicles while assisting the public.”1 See the updated article online at: https://www.fireengineering.com/2020/10/01/495507/roadway-incident-operations-what-is-the-right-helmet-for-the-job/ .

Drawn by Fire/Paul Combs


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