Fakers: Got Some?

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Today, I want to talk about fakers.  You’ll find them all over the Fire Service, and I’m sure the terms below will ring some bells for you.  Fakers are an epidemic in our trade, and they put us and the customer in danger every day that nobody calls them out.

There are many brands of fakers, and you probably know some of each.  You probably do some of these things yourself, and you should knock it off.  Below are some breeds that I’ve encountered, feel free to comment any that I missed.

The Trivial Memorizer:  This is the guy who rote memorizes every trivial detail he can get his hands on, for the sole purpose of whipping them out at opportune moments to make someone else look dumb.  This is an attempt to compensate for the fact that this person is scared to death that they won’t know what to do in a real life, emergent, dynamic, critical situation.  Characterized by memorizing every street on the map, every protocol in the book, every SOG in the manual, every item on the inventory, and wielding this information like a weapon to make others feel inferior.  Remember, true colors come out on the ground, and when we’re in the thick of it, we’ll see just how helpful all that trivial information is.

The Avoider:  This guy avoids actually participating in anything that is difficult, in order to maintain the illusion that he knows what he’s doing.  When you suggest a new and different training, he has something else to do, because he doesn’t want to be seen in a situation where he doesn’t have all the answers.  He always lets someone else go first, so that he can see how it’s done before he has to take a crack at it, minimizing the risk to his ego.  Often combined with the Capitalizer and the Talker.  He stands at the edge of the call, safely avoiding scrutiny, instead of wading in with his brothers.

The Capitalizer:  This guy makes sure that everything he does or talks about is related to his field of expertise.  He has taken the time to learn every little detail (much like the Trivial Memorizer) of his limited scope, and he works hard to keep attention on his mastery of this single topic.  He tends to have shallow understanding of other disciplines, and doesn’t like to train on or run calls outside of his chosen area of interest (See The Avoider).  He doesn’t care that the job has myriad requirements of us, he doesn’t like the danger of stepping outside of his comfort zone, so he doesn’t.  He thinks that his specialization makes him unique, but truly, it makes limited.  A tool built for one use only is not a very useful tool.

The Talker:  This guy is happy to tell you exactly how spectacular he is.  Typically charismatic, he’s the type of person who really can convince you that he’s capable and competent while he’s sitting at the kitchen table, but can’t hack it out in the real world.  He almost always uses a combination of of the above three behaviors (Memorizer, Avoider, Capitalizer) in order to sell this illusion of competence.  He’ll have a lot of stories (not always his own) and spend a lot of time watching videos and reading magazines so that he has material for his next showing.  Don’t be fooled, the difference between this guy and a real performer is obvious on the fireground.

What I’m not saying:

  • We shouldn’t have a full and comprehensive understanding of our districts, scopes of practice, SOGs, and equipment.
  • We should dive blindly into bad situations.
  • We shouldn’t have mastery of our skills.
  • We shouldn’t seek knowledge from any source available.

We should be doing all these things.  But we shouldn’t be doing it to hide our areas of weakness.  We need to admit what we don’t know, because that’s the first step to knowing it.  This is what it means to be a student of the Fire Service.  None of us has all the answers, and anyone who says they do is a faker.

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