By Ray McCormack
We learn from various teachers in our careers, from the senior men of their time to the current trailblazers. What you learn as a firefighter revolves around a basic premise: Fire destroys lives and property, and it is our job to limit that damage. Everything we do from checking our equipment to studying our area places us closer to success. We learn to be ready; to stay sharp; to think on our feet; and to work hard for the good of all.
Training methods change with new technologies, and the subject matter expands to cover a growing diversity of buildings methods, response requests and fireground challenges. Training is what keeps you dependable to others and yourself. If you arrive on the fireground unprepared to perform the basics, you need more training. Most firefighting injuries are not due to bravado. Rather, they are caused by a lapse in skill education to conditions encountered. Many firefighters have taken up the challenge to help their fellow firefighters with new techniques and innovations–outside of the more formal institutional programs that often lag behind in training development. The result of such training is impressive.
Firefighters understand much more than they are often credited with: The tools and techniques we use to save both civilians and firefighters are born out of endless cups of coffee around work benches, and kitchen tables throughout this country. Firefighters know that time works against us, that rescue is our highest calling, and within (these) basic parameters work to share their ideas so that our collective suffering is lessened. Those are the firefighters I know–and want to know. Those are the firefighters I trust in; those are the firefighters we have responding from stations all around this country.
Every firefighter gets the basic training required to operate on the fireground; however our training needs to go deeper to so that fireground tasks are set up correctly for maximum effectiveness and professionalism. There is such a wealth of knowledge that your fellow firefighters provide to the fire service: from engine operations to ladder company functions, no matter the size of your job or crew, there are skill sets you can use to ‘up your game’ significantly. Search out techniques you can use on the fireground to improve yourself and your crew to reduce your set up time. Create a systematic approach to your fireground operational tasks, and you will have a more commanding and calming fireground presence.
What will the next year bring to the fire service? Who knows? At best, would be speculation. It is up to every firefighter to decide what they wish to give to our profession and what they think needs fixing. We must occupy our profession so that we decide which direction it should go. It is not difficult, it only requires you to speak up and add your voice. How do you see things? Do you see the glass half-empty? Arriving with a defeated attitude? Or, do you see the glass half-full? Arriving with a positive mindset?
You can always throw in the towel, but we need to have more tricks in our bag than that!
Happy 2012! Keep Fire in Your Life
RAY McCORMACK is a lieutenant and 28-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York. He is the editor and publisher of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote at FDIC in 2009, is lead instructor for Urban Essentials HOT, and the author of the “Tactical Safety” weekly safety column.