When Are Mistakes Okay?

Dublin FireThere are a lot of different types of Company Officers in this line of work, and there are a whole lot of factors that make each of them unique.

One of those factors is their ability to determine the acceptability of mistakes.

Mistakes happen.  To everyone.  We’ve all got our butt chewed at one time or another, sometimes when we deserved it, and probably other times when we didn’t.

If you’re a company officer, you probably have an intuitive sense of when a mistake is a big deal and when it isn’t.  But how do you explain that to your superior, or write it down in a report?

When we start quantifying criteria for acceptable error, we start to determine that there are four reasons that people make mistakes.

Ignorance, arrogance, complacency, and negligence.Read More »

People or Machine?


Occasionally, in the fire service, we have a tendency to think about staff as another resource that needs management.

“Oh, I need another Paramedic at that station.  Move him over there.”

“We need more engineers, send those two to school.”

In fact, staff has a tendency to think of themselves as objects with unlimited capacity.

“I can work another overtime shift if you need me.”

“I’ll do whatever the department needs me to do.”

The unstoppable, adapt-and-overcome attitude of the fire service is one of it’s greatest traits.

But it does get us in trouble sometimes.Read More »

Fire Doesn’t Fight


Sometimes, when talking shop, I start to hear a brother talking about the fire like it’s out to get us.  Like the fire wants us to be hurt or injured.  As though, when a building burns, the flames are maliciously planning the ways in which they can accomplish your demise.

While I appreciate the need to have a healthy respect for the inherent danger associated with any fire incident, I don’t really believe in characterizing the fire as a villain with malicious intent.

It isn’t.

Read More »

Fakers: Got Some?


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.Read More »

Food Chain or Team Sport?


I heard someone refer today their position within the fire department as their place in the “food chain”.

Last time I checked, “food chain” and “brotherhood” didn’t work well together.

We’re not here to beat each other down, to prove our superiority, or to compare genitalia.
We’re here to serve.
We’re here to get the job done, and go home to our families at the end of the day.

If you can explain to me how “food chain” fits into that, maybe I’ll jump on your bandwagon.

The Fire Service isn’t a food chain.  It’s a team sport.

Disciplinary Action


Folks often talk about disciplinary action like it’s some kind of rocket surgery.  I don’t think that it is.

It’s really just a fancy term for the following process:

Clearly communicate expectations.
Clearly communicate that expectations are not being met.
Clearly outline the consequences of continuing failure to meet expectations.
Offer guidance, support, mentorship, coaching, and direction.
Reevaluate and follow through on consequences.

Simple.  Make sure they know what they need to do, make sure they know that they’re not doing it, make sure they know what’s going to happen if they don’t, do everything you can to help them succeed, and then hold them accountable.

There is no need to be aggressive, rude, or unprofessional about this.  It is black and white, plain and simple.

Our Work VS My Work


Every once in a while, you’ hear someone say something like “I can’t help out with that, I have to _________________.”

Maybe it’s writing a report, studying for a test, working on an assigned project, whatever.

I know, from time to time, I’ve certainly been tempted to use my personal workload as an excuse to bow out of group work.

But the truth is, my work is my work.  

And ours is ours.

The fact that I have my own work to do does not excuse me from the team.  It doesn’t absolve the responsibility that I have to my crew to pull my weight and contribute.  I don’t get to skip out on dinner dishes because I have a report to write, and I don’t get to let me team wash the rigs by themselves because I have a project to work on.

I do my work on my time.

And if my team has work to do, then I’m on team time.