by Frank Myers
Originally published in MultiBriefs
This is especially important if you live in the area where you work! How we act when not in the line of duty is important because any small detail of inconsideration, rudeness, inappropriate behavior, etc. while in public can give not only you, but your department and/or your community/municipality a bad name — especially among visitors or tourists.
Consequences add up. That bad impression or example can be reinforced when going to a call at the home of someone previously offended.
People also remember faces. Are you an aggressive driver? Do you get road rage? Have you ever cussed or flipped somebody the finger, or cut someone off while you were driving?
Any type of behavior like this may get noticed as you drive by because of the department or IAFF sticker you have on your window or the tag you proudly have on your front bumper!
As you stand in line somewhere, at the grocery store, office supply shop or major retail vendor with your firefighter T-shirt on, know that you are a walking billboard. Anything you do is going to be scrutinized and remembered.
What I used to get a kick out of were those firefighters that would always ask for a "firefighter" discount wherever they went. It would be given, the word would spread, then everyone would ask for the same discount.
The vendor would get annoyed, receive a bounced check, have an item returned after one or two uses, etc. Subsequently, no more discounts would be honored for anyone after a while. We just made a bad name for our group and messed up a good thing for everyone!
We need to be courteous, respectful and helpful, and maybe even go out of our way to offer advice even when it’s not "required." People are probably going to come up to you, because you have identified yourself as a public servant by the clothes you are wearing.
They will inquire about how to become a firefighter, and ask about something personal that happened to them that falls into the expertise of a firefighter (e.g., a first-aid or CPR question, or any other myriad questions).
Everywhere you go, behave appropriately, be polite, and set a positive example (especially when younger people or children are around). We want visitors to come back to our city because they feel safe — e.g., the "local" people are friendly and helpful.
I would frequently get asked about directions and or how to get to a place of interest. After all, who knows better than a local firefighter about where to go and how to get there? That is because we know our “territory” better than anyone else.
When it happened to us, in front of the station or elsewhere, I would tell the person where to park, invite them into the station, go to the computer, show them a map, print out the map and directions, and then offer them coffee or water, and if time permits, give them a tour of the station if they were interested. Sometimes we would have a candid conversation for few minutes with them. Remember, it is all about public impression! We are the "good guys."
We want people to look forward to interacting with us. Believe it or not, it is job security. If we did not have calls/alarms to go on, we would not have a job.
We need people to spend money; it helps to accumulate much needed tax dollars, which in turn helps support our salaries, buys new apparatus and equipment, and keeps our fire stations maintained. The public deserves it, and we need to give them the most bang for their buck!
Learn to become that ambassador for your department and community. It pays off in the long run.