Personality-Based Mutual Aid: Five Steps Forward, or Four Steps Backward?

By Billy Goldfeder

It’s obvious to even the most clueless that we’ve come a long way. From personal protective equipment to nozzles to imagers to whatever you mention, the “stuff” has improved. And that’s usually due to the efforts of good firefighters who are almost always behind the positive changes manufacturers use. We’ve come a long way.

We’ve also come a long way on how we operate-again, thanks to good firefighters who are always behind the changes.

With changes to stuff and learning about more ways to operate (MORE vs “instead of,” because our choices to operate need to meet the specific conditions on arrival; there is no “one way”), we now have better chances than ever to take care of those who dial 911 as well as ourselves.  

Every once in a while, a firefighter or department seems to slip through the cracks–one that makes you go hmmmm. For example, earlier this week I watched as one fire department called a much further away fire department for help, rather than a more-qualified fire department that was closer to the fire, because they don’t like each other. They don’t like each other.

Congratulations. That’s exactly what the citizens expect. 


Personality-Based Mutual Aid (PMBA). Yes, PBMA has caused injuries to get worse, fires to burn longer, and unnecessarily raised stupid risk for decades.

It’s nothing new. Sometimes it goes back generations because some “bastid” doesn’t like some other “bastid.”

Yay us.

And then there are fires like these, as shown below, where you wonder…WTF.

Take 30 seconds and watch this clip. I know, you’re gonna watch it and say “well maybe this or well maybe that” 


Or maybe you’ll watch it and say “uh…how about a hoseline first before we toss junior into the dwelling?” 

Better answer.

Anyway, take a look and instead of going crazy about what you see–since you can’t do anything about it–use the clip and opportunity to make sure your members are fully trained based upon how they are EXPECTED to operate TOGETHER, with everyday being a training day, so that every member knows what to do (and what not to do) based upon the fire conditions on arrival. 

Leadership+Policy/SOG+Disciplined Firefighters+Training+Training+Training.

An old tried and true formula.

Sometimes you might feel that the fire service is taking five steps forward and then four backward, but don’t worry about that–that’s not the overall case. There are always going to be some that slip through the cracks–the better concern is to focus on making sure it’s not yours, mine, or ours.


BILLY GOLDFEDER, EFO, Billy Goldfederis deputy chief of the Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department. He has been a firefighter since 1973, a company officer since 1979, and a chief officer since 1982. He serves on the International Association of Fire Chiefs board of directors, the September 11th Families Association, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. He has taught at FDIC for 30-plus years and is a member of the Fire Engineering editorial advisory board and the FDIC executive advisory board.

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