The Mississippi— Waterway or barrier?

The Mississippi— Waterway or barrier?



If you have read this column at least once in the past six months, you probably realize that one of my main focuses within the framework of the fire/emergency service is training.

Training is that all-inclusive, catchall, connotative term that we use to define new programs and great operations—or use as an excuse for poor performance. It is a word as closely identified with the fire service as is protection, suppression, investigation, and prevention. It’s no small wonder that nowadays training is getting a great deal of attention throughout the United States.

While at the California Fire Instructors Conference in Fresno several weeks ago, 1 witnessed a great deal of dialogue among the instructors in their identification of the training needs for the fire service. Sponsored by the California Fire Chiefs Association, Assistant Chief Walt Luihn of Orinda and his dedicated committee programmed an extremely fact-filled, authoritative, and most informative 3 1/2 days of “New Technology” in the fire service.

Some of the subjects were specifically regional, quite interesting to me especially in view of my rapidly expanding horizons. Others, however, remained universal, and it was indeed gratifying to see “old” subjects addressed in new and innovative ways.

Terrific? Seemingly.

What caught my attention and played on my mind was a remark made at the opening of the conference: “The Mississippi River is the separation of the innovation of the western fire departments and the tradition of the eastern fire departments.”

I mulled over this remark for many reasons, the greatest being the fear of establishing ego fences across what should be open fields of dialogue.

In our business, human life and property are the commodities in which we deal. Our ability to provide better, more efficient service should be constantly honed to a finer and finer edge.

To my best and most educated guess, dialogue among fire service leaders is the greatest road to this end. Establishing new and innovative operational principles to foster strategic and tactical improvements in our firefighting should be the constant goal of us all. Unfortunately, too often we learn improvements in our career with expensive experience. One experience, however, should be enough from which we all can draw lessons.

Innovation is not valuable without a past or a tradition that fostered its conception and gave it a value. We as a whole must remain as cosmopolitan as possible and reject the insular, narrow leadings. Otherwise, we may as well return to the “bully boy” days of yesteryear, fighting with each other over first water while the building burns to the ground.

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