If you serve for many years within a department, there will be times when you have some "lows" based on actions or occurrences at your workplace — sometimes involving co-workers. Knowing how to cope and find ways of getting back on track and becoming more upbeat and enthusiastic about your work will help you become physically, mentally and emotionally stronger.
At some point in everyone's career, there will be a colleague who will die from accidental or natural causes — active employee or retired. Depending on what your fire department establishes as a standard operating procedure, each should be treated in a specific way.
First and foremost, you can offer your department's resources to the family; however, abide by the family's wishes. There is no doubt those who serve — whether public servant, firefighter, law enforcement or military — take great pride and honor in their careers. The family should know what their loved one's wishes are for their interment.
When I worked for the fire department, there were many instances and opportunities to interact with members of other municipal departments over the years.
For the most part, the encounters occurred day-to-day when working in the emergency response division. However, as my career shifted to the training center, I was assigned to the driver engineer instructor's position, and I was asked to get involved with presentations for different entities and other fire departments.
One day my wife started getting rid of some old T-shirts of mine (without me knowing) to give away to a local charity that resold used clothes. Many were fire department shirts that I had won from T-shirt bets during football season or other fire department shirts I had traded with our department shirts.
With the inherent nature of firefighting, there are always changing events. It is a dynamic and ever-changing profession.
During live fire emergencies and operations, drivers need to remain diligent about the activities occurring around them. They cannot remain focused on the pump panel or aerial operations only; they need to be vigilant about their surrounding area and radio communications.
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.
One of the things "old school" senior firefighters passed on to me was making sure the everyday hand tools and other items were maintained and presentable. This included our forcible entry tools, axes, pike poles, shovels, etc. Regular maintenance not only makes them look good cosmetically (e.g., public demos), but also assures that they are not going to cause further injury when damage and defects occur from regular use and wear and tear.
My lifelong dream was to become a pilot, either military or commercial. However, the financial situation in my household — being raised by my mother in a single-parent household with two other siblings -- was not conducive to pay for college or take flying lessons. I looked to achieving something feasible and stable. My uncles had always instilled in me that if I was not going to go to college and seek employment in the private sector or corporate America, then I should get a civil service job.
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.
Maintaining and keeping your spare apparatus fleet functioning and assuring that it stays cosmetically respectable is crucial for your department.
One main reason is that during off-duty special events, your spare trucks are the ones seen by masses of tourists, visitors, residents and citizens. The other reason is that it needs to be ready 24/7/365 in case of a disabled front-line apparatus.