Everybody got their cup of cahfee? Everyone comfortable? Good.
So for todays little chat I thought I'd talk about the three P's; Pride, Passion and Professionalism. These three words may arguably be at the very heart and soul of the fire service and should drive much of what we do. These words and their synonyms are often discussed in firehouses across the land and can even, at times, lead to heated debates. They are at the core of what we try to instill in our new Boots, Probies, Candidates etc. and which we as senior members boast we are full of. But are we? And what exactly do these words mean?
Let's start with the definition of Pride. Funk and Wagnall's on-line dictionary defines it this way:
1: the quality or state of being proud: a: inordinate self-esteem : CONCEIT b: a reasonable or justifiable self-respect c: delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship
3 a: ostentatious display
4: a source of pride : the best in a group or class
6: a showy or impressive group
The definition of Passion as defined by F&W's is:
3: the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces
(2): plural: the emotions as distinguished from reason b: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction c: a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.
And finally, the definition of Professionalism:
1: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a PROFESSION, or a PROFESSIONAL person.
Profession: 4 a: a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation b: a principal calling, vocation, or employment
Professional: (1): characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a PROFESSION
(2): exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace
2 a: participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
Now, take a look at these two videos and see if you can match the definitions listed above with either and the different portions of each. The first video has a soundtrack so you may want to turn your volume down a little. Use the "Back" button in your browser to navigate back to The Tailboard.
Ok, so we've seen a couple examples of fire operations that both resulted in the same ending, that bein' the fire went out. Did you have the definitions of the three P's in your noggin while you were watching them? Then let's talk.
The first video out of PGFD is a wicked pissah. Lots of fire, looks impressive, bad-ass fire men get in, get on it, get out, right? So, that particular company is obviously passionate about the job. They should be proud of what they accomplished and from what we can see they generally operated with the professionalism we expect in the fire service. But does it stand up to our definitions?
Passionate: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction, a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Check. I think all those things are obvious from watching the video. I certainly can't fault them there. But what about the part of the definition that reads, the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces? Like maybe, a big fire with people standing and pointing? Could we safely say that maybe the members were acted upon by these outside forces and felt the need to be as aggressive as they were? I don't know if this house was occupied or if it was a vacant. Now, keeping in mind that we only have the front of the building to look at, do we think that anyone is alive in that house? Did the situation that is presented warrant firefighters advancing past and underneath fire into a structure that was being greatly weakened by the minute? Since the person who narrates the beginning of the video doesn't mention a rescue being made (pride and professionalism) I can only assume there was no life safety threat. Except to the firefighters operating!
Pride: a reasonable or justifiable self-respect, delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship. Check. This company can definitely be proud of their performance and of bangin' out the red devil. But again, what about the part about conceit and of an ostentatious display? Did they have to do what they did or did they simply do it because there was a structure, it was on fire and it's what they're supposed to do? Or, and even worse, did they do it because they really wanted to show the second-in companies what they are made of? Or to "protect" their "good" name as an aggressive interior attack company?
Professionalism: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession, or a professional, a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation, person exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace. Again, check. Sort of. From what we can tell these brothers and/or sisters did perform in a courteous, conscientious and generally businesslike manner and they obviously had the training that was required to accomplish the job. But, you see what's coming right? What about characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession? What about using the specialized knowledge and academic learnings to take in all the information being presented and make an informed decision as to which mode to use to attack this fire? It seems as if they forgot all about that and were drawn like the proverbial moth to the flame. Pun intended. This is just my observation from the comfort of my easy-chair next to my roaring fireplace, but I don't consider this video an example of conforming to the technical standards of our profession and should someone have gotten hurt or killed the ethics could be called into question also.
I know, I know. There are about a thousand of you out there jumping up and down screaming that I'm soft for even suggesting this. That I'm all safety conscious and am what's wrong with the fire service today. Take a blow for a second. Even though we just met and haven't developed what I'd call a deep and meaningful relationship yet, I'm asking you to trust me in something. If I thought there were a live person in that building I might just be right there with our brothers in the video. If I thought there were a downed/lost/disoriented firefighter in that building you wouldn't see me in the video because I would be inside trying to get at 'em. But barring those two situations I don't see what there was to save in this video and how the risk to the members operating was justified. It's just not good enough anymore to say, "well it's just what we do." Gratefully this example turned out with no one seriously injured or killed. It very easily could have been the opposite and all the officers of this company would have been able to say would have been, "we gave the bulldozer operator a job for the day."
On to the second video. This is obviously out of FDNY and happened to be in Squad 252's first-due area in Brooklyn. Again, another wicked pissah of a video with people from the block jumping in to help out the victims trapped on the uppers, ladder rescues being made and smoke pushin'. Good stuff. One of the main reasons I picked this video was because of a comment that was made on the website where I found it. Our supposed brother or sister had this to say about the video, "this video is disappointing. it shows a lack of motovation and speed in the action of the fdny members at this fire. People are trapped. The first due company should be RUNNING to put a line in place not dicking around like a bunch of volunteers in hoe-dunk nowhere. Lives are at stake here and yet the first due engine has poor positioning and slow line placement. Why?" Punctuation, spelling and capitalization, or lack thereof, original to author. So, does what we see stand up to our definitions? Is the comment author on track? Let's see.
Pride: the quality or state of being proud, a reasonable or justifiable self-respect, delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship, a source of pride : the best in a group or class, a showy or impressive group. Hmmm. Check, check, check, check and double-check. Inordinate self-esteem : CONCEIT, ostentatious display? Not that I see. The brothers in this video should be justifiably proud of the job they performed on this scene. Were there problems, issues? Of course. There are on every scene. But the job was still accomplished while putting our ultimate mission first; life safety.
Passion: the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces, intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction, a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Check and check. The difference I see in this video versus the first in regards to being acted upon by external forces is towards the positive. The members in this video saw the life-safety issue, identified it and addressed it immediately in a calm and professional manner. They were influenced by these outside forces but used their passion for the job (as well as some training and experience) to drive them to a positive outcome. If you only sort of like your job or are ambivalent towards it you will not be able to perform at this level.
Professionalism: I think this is where the comment author misses his mark. The conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession, or a professional person, a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation, characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession, exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace, participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs. Do I even need to waste my time? Check.
Lest some of you think that this is an FDNY love-fest and that I have something against PGFD, it's not and I don't. Both organizations have immensely talented and dedicated personnel. Both organizations have rich tradition and history and reputations. There are problems and issues everywhere. I simply chose two videos that I felt could be used to discuss the three P's. As I stated in the opening these three words can and should be right at the heart of what we do. They can, however, be easily misinterpreted or their meanings twisted to justify certain mindsets or behaviors. Hopefully my ramblings sparked some thinking on your behalf.
Now. Don't we have some work to do? Getjerbutts off 'da tailboard and go do somethin'.