I do not claim to be an expert, psychologist or therapy worker; however, I do believe I have a knack for “tuning in” to what people are projecting to me through their various mannerisms. With time and experience, anyone can fine tune their people “reading” capabilities through dealing with them on a day-to-day basis. This is especially true when your line of work is in the medical field.
Your uniform says a lot about you and your organization. Personal appearance and hygiene always need to be kept in mind. The way others see you — the public, fellow employees, and others that you associate with in your line of work — can make a statement based on first impressions and beyond.
Throughout a career, you will encounter many different types of individuals, each with unique personalities. You will soon learn to pick out what a person’s intentions, morals and/or standards are. In other words, "where they are coming from."
Most firefighters take great pride in their work and what they do. The decals on personal vehicles and fire department-emblazoned T-shirts, polo shirts or whatever article of clothing worn off-duty advertise who we are and what we do. The public sees us as servants for the municipality we work for and a person to go to in a time of need.
Everyone at some point in their careers will have to deal with the change of a supervisor. In the fire service, especially at the station level, this is an intimate working relationship, unlike other careers where the supervisor stays predominantly in their office and only confers with upper management. We need to realize that everyone has their own management style and we either need to accept it or move on to a different position.
With the recent firing of six City of Miami firefighters, many have taken notice. Anytime there is a controversial issue that impacts a public-sector employee, it makes headlines! Supervisors and administrators need to take any type of racial, sexual, hazing harassment seriously. There is no place for it in the fire service — period.
Now more than ever, we must be more diligent about keeping our eyes on other drivers. This is obvious because, unfortunately, other drivers are on mobile devices and not looking at the road. Another factor is that sound systems some people put in their vehicles prevent hearing the sirens and air horns when we are responding on an alarm. As drivers of fire apparatus, we need to be smarter than these people — not only for our safety, but also because the size of our vehicles can cause great harm and destruction.
In my first article, I presented a compelling case for the relationship of cancer and firefighting. The toxic environment in which firefighters work is well known, yet the fact remains that we can do more to save ourselves from this scourge.
It begins with leadership. The days of wearing dirty gear and blackened helmets are gone. Hoods, helmets, gloves, air packs, and bunker gear need to be cleaned and inspected after every exposure. We cannot forget all the other items that have been exposed including anything and everything that has been in the path of the “toxic snake”. This includes equipment, ladder, hoses, and our apparatus. The list would not be complete if we forget the firefighters. Keeping our bodies clean with a hot/cold shower is part of this protocol.
I recently had the privilege to be invited to participate in a military exercise as a role player/subject material expert. I was reluctant at first, but with encouragement from my wife and siblings, I decided to give it a try.
My invitation came from a FEMA and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) team program director that I had worked with as a logistics specialist in the early 1990s.