When is a Firemen “On Duty”?
One of the chiefs who has lost no time in having it distinctly understood that he considers his men “on duty,” so far as second alarms are concerned, at all times while they are members of the fire department, is Chief Michael Fleming, of Albany, N. Y. He recently made it very clear that the off platoon must hold itself in readiness to answer all second and over alarms and must make thorough arrangements so that they can be at once notified by ‘phone when their services are needed to fight a large fire. He also made arrangements with the moving picture houses and other places of amusement that in case of a second alarm fire the fact will be either flashed on the screen or announced from the stage as the case may be, so that any firemen in the audience may report for duty.
The occasion for these steps on the part of the chief was a large fire in Albany in which a number of officers and men of the off platoon failed to report for duty. That the offense will probably not be repeated will be apparent to those who are acquainted with the chief of Albany. The announcement by the chief, however, emphasizes a very important phase of the modern firemen’s life. It is the one thing that removes the position of fireman from all other professions—he must always be prepared to respond to the call of duty. Night and day, no matter where he is, when his city or some of its citizens are in peril he must be ready to jump into the breach, whether technically on or off duty.
While this fact is, no doubt, a hardship for the individual fireman, it is a splendid thing for the fire-fighting profession in general. It raises it from the level of mere wage-earning business to a profession and it makes the members what they have so aptly been termed. “Soldiers of Peace.” They are engaged in warfare against an enemy which never sleeps—they themselves must be prepared at all times to fly to arms when the alarm sounds for them to fight. The fire department is the nearest equivalent to a standing army of peace that there is in the world.
In the meantime the enforcement of this rule of preparedness to answer the second alarm is one of the finest things from the standpoint of discipline that could happen to the fire department. To the enthusiastic and earnest members it will be looked upon as a matter of course, but to the indifferent or time-serving fireman it will bring home the fact that his work is an important and vital part of his community’s life and that he himself is a most important cog in the machinery of his city’s government. This, if he “belongs” to the fire-fighting forces should increase his self-respect and his love for his profession. And if not, he does not belong!