Saturday, August 24, 2013

Complacency, Why?

I try not to tell or relate too many stories back to my days in my previous departments, but I feel the time has come for one. I served as a Captain for well over 10 years of my career and I had the good fortune to work at some of the busiest and most active companies in our department. During some tours our company responded to as many as 25 - 35 calls in a 24 hour period. We responded to many fire alarm calls, some addresses we went to multiple times in the same day. Each call was approached like it was going to be a fire, knowing in the back of our minds most of the time it would not be. We dressed out fully, wore our SCBA, laid in supply lines, hooked to connections, and pulled attack lines or high-rise packs into the building pending the specifics of the situation. Command was established and we went through the whole play book the same way at 0300 or 1300 hrs, it didn't matter. 

There were reasons we did this, first was for me as the Captain I was able to evaluate and ensure that when the stuff hit the fan that my crew had the repetitions to "take care of buisiness", and they did. I had no worries that even in the middle of the night, half asleep that my crew had the habits ingrained in them that lines were pulled to perfection. Second we wanted to be better than everyone else, and we were. 

Now let's talk about alarms. There is a fire service professional who is in town on some personal business, let's say he is staying at the Hampton Inn. An alarm comes out and a crew from a neighboring department shows up, enters the lobby with their coats not buttoned, no air packs, and no tools. What is the perception to that individual. Now take the same incident and a crew from Holly Springs enters the hotel with all gear on, tools with them, a water can, a high rise pack, and the driver hooks up to the connection and hydrant. Now what is the perception, who was ready to do their job? I can hear it now, who cares what this individual thinks, well my brief answer to that is I do, enough said. 

If your mindset leads to believe you’re responding to ‘just another fire alarm,’ then your guard will be down. Not only can this cause you to be physically ill-prepared for the potential of the call, it can also cause you to be mentally ill-prepared for the potential dangers the call holds, and this can be deadly. Early in my career I was taught to prepare and respond to every call with the mindset that what I will find the worst-case scenario situation and then to get into the mental mindset to be ready for it and this is how I want us to respond as well. 
Ironically, as I have so often talked about this repetition of physical and mental preparation for the worst case scenario builds outstanding habits. Conversely, if our mindset becomes one of complacency, i.e. “It’s just another fire alarm” triggers the mind and the body behaves accordingly. In the middle of the night half asleep the senses neither capture nor comprehend clues and cues that can form situational awareness. Situational awareness is what helps keep us safe on the emergency scene. 
We must respond to every call for service as if it holds the potential to cause great harm. Be vigilant in your capturing of clues and cues and understanding what they mean. No responder ever goes to a call thinking it’s going to be their last. But many catastrophic outcomes result from complacent mindsets and I want to do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. The habit of responding to these types of calls with a complacent mind set was yesterday's way of thinking. As you all know yesterday is gone and today is a new day. 
In my department all member understand that as their Chief it is my expectation that on each fire related call that everyone show up ready to handle the worse, I want attack lines pulled, connections hooked up to, crews dressed in al PPE, roper tools used, and Command established just like it is the real deal. 98% of the time this will turn into a drill, but when the 2% hits will you and your crews be ready.
I have seen over the past few weeks most our crews moving in this direction and that is outstanding. However we are not there yet as some among us still question the validity of operating this way. Why do we establish command, we don't need to talk so much on the radio, pulling lines is stupid we know its not a fire. Do we really. Does someone have that sixth sense that tells us its not a fire if so who ever has it please give me the lottery numbers we can split the money. 
This is our job fellas and I believe that some among us that have lost the passion for completing the basic tasks of our job, pulling lines, laying supply lines in, getting dressed, establishing command, and most of all training every day. These individuals may want to reconsider their career choice. The change train is here are you going to be on it or left at the station? This is the direction that I have chosen for our department and I know this may go against what was done in the past but again that was yesterday and yesterday is gone. I appreciate your support as we continue to move our department forward