Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"Living The Dream"


The experience of being a live-in firefighter is one that most who have ever done it would not trade for anything.  “Living the dream,” it is called by many, particularly those who never had the opportunity, and they are not wrong. 
A few things do change, arguably for the better, after you move out and on.  Language is one.  Fire stations are not kind to the vocabulary.  The F-word is not only a noun, verb, and adjective, but in skilled firehouse hands, can be used as punctuation.  I remember having to consciously restrict myself when outside the station in “normal” company to avoid saying things like “pass the f@^*ing potatoes.”   As time passes, so does the propensity to use the F-word in every sentence.  Once or twice a paragraph suffices. 
Sleep improves as well.  When living in the station, I think I slept eight straight hours once a week, maybe.  Between calls, staying up late bullshitting, and calls, three to five hours was a normal night’s sleep.  This experience is excellent practice for the period following the birth of your first and subsequent children.  That amount of sleep would now leave me on a continuous coffee intravenous. 
The live-in opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thankfully, it is one you only get to do when you’re young. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Chief's Philosophy--From the Archives

It's November again and election time in many fire departments.  Invariably, some first time chief's will take office come January.  If these thoughts help even one of those folks, I've been successful. There are rules, and then there are rules. Here are some I've tried, not always successfully, to follow.

Ryman’s Rules: A Volunteer Chief’s Philosophy

1. You are responsible. You are responsible 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. If you are there or 3,000 miles away. You are responsible. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.

2. The chief is always right. Invite input, debate, etc. from the officers. However, once the decision is made, that’s it. In public, the officers must show solidarity.

3. The officers are always right. If an officer makes a decision you disagree with, in public or with the other firefighters, that decision was right. You talk about what you would have done differently in private.

4. Delegate, delegate, and delegate. You can’t be involved in every activity, nor should you be. Give the junior officers responsibilities and hold them accountable. If they follow through, give them more and more. If they don’t, let them know about it and don’t give them any additional work.

5. Try to develop a command presence. Your presence at an emergency should send a message to the firefighters that everything is going to be okay. Regardless of how badly something is going, try to maintain a calm exterior. Motivate your people. This is done differently for each individual. If you give an order or tell them to get into a building, they should totally believe that you believe they can do it. Never tell a firefighter to do something you wouldn’t or couldn’t do yourself. Chiefs give orders on incomplete information regularly. Even if you have doubts about it, give the order as if you are 100% confident about it. Your confidence is a force multiplier.

6. Let them have fun. Nobody is getting paid for this. The younger guys have to enjoy themselves. At the same time, know when to pull in the reins, and when you do, jerk them hard. They still have to be professionals. You can’t be their buddy anymore. You are the man, and they have to recognize it as such.

7. Pace of change. Keep them sullen but not mutinous. The pace of change has to be fast enough that the young guys see progress, but not so fast that the dinosaurs get riled up. As long as both groups are slightly unhappy, you’re doing fine.

8. Don’t be afraid to piss somebody off. If you’re not pissing somebody off once in a while, you’re not doing your job.

9. Encourage training certifications. Push the guys to get their Firefighter 1 and other certificates. The time is fast coming when what you are able to do, and what positions you can hold in a fire department virtually anywhere will be determined by these certificates. At the same time, work to keep things in perspective. Firefighter 1 or 2 does not equal “super firefighter”.

10. Develop junior officers. The greatest legacy a chief can have is by the officers he leaves behind.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Top Ten


Lists of the top ten this or that have been the rage for years, and fodder for great fun and debate.   I decided to add to the noise with a selection of my Top Ten Fire Service reads.  This is totally subjective and personal, and is my list today.  It could change tomorrow.  Everyone out there can and probably would come up with a different list.   

My list is hopelessly prejudiced because of two selections I would automatically make.  The books below are not in any particular order. 

·         Report From Engine Company 82—Dennis Smith

·         Fireground Tactics—Emanuel Fried

·         Firefight:  Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11—Patrick Creed and Rick Newman

·         D.C. Fire—Dennis Rubin

·         Last Men Out:  Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse—Tom Downey

·         Population 485-Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time—Michael Perry

·         Thirty Years on the Line—Leo Stapleton

·         B-Shifter:  A Firefighter’s Memoir—Nick Brunacini 

·         Mayday! Firefighter Down—Gary Ryman

·         Fire Men:  Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family—Gary Ryman

This is an eclectic list and includes some works that many may have never heard of, much less read.  Some haven’t been in print for a while (but may be available on the used market).  Only one is a true “tactics and strategy” book—introduced to me by my Dad over 30 years ago.  It was good then and is still relevant now.  There’s not a book on this list I haven’t read multiple times.   

I hope to see other lists and hopefully at least one of mine will make it! 
 
Here are some links to a few of the above.