Failed Leadership/Failed Culture
Silence = Consent
It may be 2023 (almost) but you’ll never see better evidence (below) that killer culture is alive and well, at least in some fire departments.
Word for word it may be the most inane (and dangerous) prescription for emergency operations we’ll see.
Calling it a prescription is inaccurate as it is a wish for a past long gone and missed only by those who fear the present, much less the future.
Leadership, Policies and Micromanagement
No professional organization can exist, much less thrive, without policies and those policies should be uniformly administered.
Or stated differently, policies are how everyone knows what to do and how and when to do it.
Policy is the very basis of effective operations.
They eliminate the need for micromanagement by delegating responsibility to the lowest possible level.
And yes, policies are “leashes” of a sort, designed to ensure continuity and professionalism.
The fireground is neither a playground nor a free-for-all.
Standards and Mediocrity
“Lower standards” is caveman code directed at anyone not male, white and heterosexual in a famously misogynistic job.
Falsely shouting mediocrity when actual lower standards are normalized simply because the majority approves of them is rubbish.
Physical fitness is the most prominent example and is conveniently ignored as obviously overweight firefighters wallow about like hogs in mud. Obese firefighters represent lowered standards which has a direct and negative effect on safety and effectiveness.
Aggression and Competition
Unbridled aggression and crew competition are two extreme and proven threats to firefighter safety.
Carefully calibrated aggression should be applied only after effective risk assessment proves actions are in line with likely outcomes.
Naked aggression in firefighting is but a fool on autopilot.
And competition between crews is unprofessional, immature and deadly.
Professional firefighters dedicated to safe operations are thoroughly familiar with the FDNY fire where three members were killed as another crew engaged in competitive actions rather than following policy.
Fireground competition is proof positive that professionalism has been replaced by a bonehead and hooligan mindset.
“Let Firemen be Firemen”
Here’s the crux of it, a call to expunge the inclusive term “firefighter” in favor of “firemen”, a term which is at once both archaic and defiant.
It’s just a pathetic way for little fragile boys to stroke their easily bruised egos by excluding anyone who doesn’t look (and act) like them.
How tough is that?
And Finally, Some Advice
If you are new on our job, don’t buy the bullshit, smile and maybe even nod your head if you have to but know their ego-tainted trash talk kills.
If you’ve been around for awhile, do the right thing and speak up when you hear the garbage being spewed: that takes real courage.
(Eric Lamar has been involved in firefighting and labor for fifty years.)