Leatherhead Thursday: Are you “good enough”?

By J.R. Dennison
For the Leatherhead Instructors

The fire service is full of all types of people, from all walks of life, with many different goals.  Some of us are second, third, or fourth generation firefighters that have dreamed of the job since childhood.  Others discovered the fire service as young adults or even older adults.  The fire service is truly diverse in its makeup, but so are the standards that each firefighter holds him/ herself to.

Regardless of the age, gender, or ethnicity of the firefighter; they were probably quite ambitious at the beginning of their career.  You could follow this firefighter and find that their tools were clean and sharp, their S.C.B.A.’s were filled to their max, the knowledge and understanding of the equipment that they used was sharp, and they had an excitement about them for the job.  Time, influences, and laziness are all things that contribute to the demise of the new firefighter.  Making certain that our new firefighters are properly mentored can be the beginning or the beginning of the end for them; along with personal choices/ goals.

What kind of process do you use when hiring a new firefighter?  Is this firefighter placed with a mentor that fits their personality?  Does this mentor have a positive attitude and show ambition?  What kind of goals does this firefighter have?  Where does this firefighter fit in?  These are all questions that should be asked and answered when preparing the plan for the new recruit.  It is impossible to create an atmosphere for success when these new hires are placed in the wrong hands!  You certainly want to bring a fresh breath of air to the service, and not contaminate it from the beginning!

I describe the “good enough” firefighter as the one that looks at their S.C.B.A. in the morning and finds it at a few hundred p.s.i. low, or notices dirt and grime on their hand tools, but thinks “It’s good enough for me.”  I would much rather been the guy that contributed to that firefighter taking the bottle and filling it, or cleaning those tools; not saying that it is good enough.  The habits of laziness or lack of being punctual could have either been learned on the job or part of their makeup.  We do not have room in this career for these types of people!

Laziness is not a term that is acceptable in the fire service to me.  Understanding that technology and research supports new or new- old methods of firefighting is imperative to progression into the future and taking steps ahead for safety.  The ability to be opened minded and willing to learn new things and take the time to train on them is also part of the same concept.  An unteachable person is not a person for this career.  We really should be concerned about the people that we work with that have these characteristics because they will be the ones that get us hurt, killed, or into predicaments that are generally unsafe.

The folks out there that have sour attitudes and have begun to have lazy tendencies need to be questioned as to why they are feeling this way.  There may be something that you can do to help get them back on track, but the best example you can set for anyone is not being a “good enough” firefighter yourself.  I encourage you to keep learning, keep putting the time into the job, and keep a positive attitude.  Remember that only you have control of you, and you can impact others positively or negatively.  You can make a difference!

Stay safe and train hard!

Read more about the Leatherhead Instructors on their website.