Let’s Look at the Future
1970S CHALLENGING YEARS
Seems a little odd to be talking about the 1970s in this 1967 issue, but actually 1970 is less than 27 months, or 710 days, away. And the 1970s are years that the fire service should be talking about and planning for right now.
We have felt for a long time that the fire service has been standing still or at least plodding along on the same plateau—moving forward but not changing gears in an attempt to reach a higher plateau.
The service is, of course, tradition oriented as all military organizations are, which is not always bad. But tr adition has two facets. On one side it builds morale, welds the team. On the other, it resents change— any change that departs from the past.
New apparatus is invariably met with reserve and frequently with scorn. There is a tendency to wait until a sufficient number of other guys have tried it before adopting it. Even after a new piece of equipment is purchased it often lies unused while attempts are made to get more and better use out of the old.
Tradition also rears its head when a new fireman walks into the station. He is “boot” and “Johnny-come-lately” for a long time before he arrives. And he himself will acquire the same superior attitude when the next boot arrives.
But the boot who will arrive in the 1970s will be unlike any other boot of the past. This fireman of the new breed will be a fat cat who has been well clothed, well fed and well housed all his life. lie will also have been better educated than his predecessors. He will not have worked too much with his hands. In fact, we might have a very hard time convincing him to enter the fire service.
We are not here speaking exclusively of the paid fireman. Many volunteer departments are having difficulty recruiting. The situation has already become critical and will become more so. Like his paid counterpart. the new volunteer (if we get him) will be a fat cat who probably commutes to the city to a well-paying job. He will probably prefer to play golf on Saturday rather than drill at the engine house.
Remember, too, that the fireman of the new breed will have grown up in the nuclear, electronic and computer age. He will want to knowdemand—why the fire service is still operating with the same basic equipment as it did 20 and even 40 years ago. Why it hasn’t taken advantage of the tremendous knowledge and skill explosion of the last 20 vears.
The fire service will reply that they have had to take what the manufacturers have given them. And the manufacturers will reply—rightly, we think—that they have given the fire service what it has asked for.
But perhaps these questions won’t have to be asked or answered, if the fire service looks to the challenge of the future as 12 fire service leaders have done on the following pages.