Swinging a Mop Called Dampener To Attainment of Professionalism
Why do firemen no longer seem to have that spirit of dedication that we think is so essential?
Why do they seem to devote more effort to their off-duty employment than they do to their fire department positions?
Why do they seem to lack pride in their position as fire fighters?
Why do they seem to have a lack of interest in their work and seem to put a minimum amount of effort into their tasks?
New breed of men
We re talking about a new breed of young men—intelligent, educated, skilled young men. Men who are seeking a place of trust and respect in their community. Men who need to be challenged in their careers. Why do they seem to lack interest in the fire service? Let me express my viewpoint on this subject. I’m sure I’m going to step on some toes and hear some loud groans, but here goes.
Have you ever seen a police officer mop a floor, empty a wastebasket, or clean out a lavatory? Think about that for a moment. Have any of you seen such an act? Your answer is the same as mine—never! And we probably never will. He is a law enforcement officer and he’s probably proud of it. And you wouldn’t dare to ask him to empty a wastebasket or swing a mop, now, would you? It is unheard of and unthinkable in the police service.
A bank teller—ask him to swing a mop or push a broom and see what his reaction is! How about a sales person? Tell him to start washing windows and see what he tells you to do! And you can go on down the list and the reaction will be the same! But—and that’s a great big but!— how much of a fire fighter’s time is devoted to janitorial services, sweeping, swabbing, scrubbing and the other menial tasks he is required to perform? Hours and hours each and every duty day. And yet we ask these men to be dedicated, prideful and productive in their work. Yes, we want them to be professionals, to think and act like professionals in the many areas of scientific fire suppression.
Roadblock to professionalism
I submit that one of the greatest roadblocks to professionalizing the fire service and one of the greatest barriers to more efficiency and a feeling of pride and accomplishment in a fire fighter is our requirement that they be housekeepers—janitors, if you will. What a shameful waste of money to have a well-paid fireman spend horns on end performing nonproductive janitorial services around the fire station!
Ah, but you say, why not? Think of the money we save, and he’s not doing much of anything anyway. Why shouldn’t he do housework as part of his regular duties? Save money? That’s an absolute fallacy. The hours spent in such activities could be devoted to much more meaningful and productive tasks, such as pre-fire planning, tactical surveys, inspections, training and the many other facets of his job that all of us continually brag about— things that we pay a good salary for and things that have much greater worth to the department he serves.
Waste of talent
I also submit that requiring the fire fighter to perform such janitorial services is a major factor in developing a lackadaisical attitude—you know, the “I don’t really care” attitude. I believe that the greatest deterrent to developing a feeling of pride and accomplishment in a fireman, a feeling of a worthwhile job well done, is to put a mop or a bowl brush in his hand and expect him to be an interested professional fire fighter.
Now I’m not talking about the care and maintenance of his apparatus or the tools and equipment that he must skillfully use. These things are necessary for him to do his job—his primary job of protecting life and property. These are the tools of the trade and he wants them to be readily available and usable for an immediate emergency. But I do say that cleaning out garbage cans, washing windows and scrubbing floors is a shameful waste of money, talent and energy.
Need for change
Now let me pose a question. When will the picture change? In the all too distant future, I fear—perhaps never. But certainly not until our city administrators, the citizens of our respective communities and yes, some of our fire service officials, realize that firemen are, and must be, highly skilled, well trained, knowledgeable individuals, who want to be recognized and rewarded for their professional abilities and skills. A fire fighter is most anxious to fulfill his obligations to the community he serves. He wants to be a professional fire fighter, not a parttime janitor or porter.
If and when this change is accomplished, you’ll find a great improvement in the fire service, and we’ll have pride in being professionals.
Now let me allay some fears that I’m trying to get out of swinging a mop or pushing a broom. I’m a chief officer of some 23 years experience in a large municipal fire department, one that I think is recognized as a leader in the fire service, and I have no ax to grind. I don’t swing a mop or push a broom (except around the house), but I do devote my total effort toward being a professional fire officer, and I hope a capable one.
Now let’s hear from the other side!