How Dare You!-We Can No Longer Tolerate Incompetence!

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By: Captain Steve Heidbreder

As many of you may have done over the Father’s Day weekend, I spent some time thinking about the day and what it means to me as a father. I reflected on my own Father, my Step-Dad, my Grandfathers, and those that were a father figure in my life. I then looked at myself and thought about what kind of father I was to my three kids. While the three of them didn’t allow me time during the day for much consideration, the thoughts came back late at night when sleep proved elusive.

As is often the case during these late night mind wandering trips, I found myself wondering what my kids memories of me would be when I was gone. Of course I want them to remember me fondly, as a good Dad, as a friend. My thoughts then turned to a picture from a recent LODD funeral. I remember being deeply touched by the picture of a young boy clutching his father’s helmet, crying as he sat in the pews of the church during his dad’s funeral. How unfair, I thought. This little boy will not have his Dad to grow up with, to guide him, to help him when he becomes a Dad for the first time. I tried (and failed) to not picture my son clutching that helmet in the church pew.2

My thoughts then turned to anger. Why anger? Because I am tired of witnessing complacency, incompetence, and a lack of dedication to our profession. I’m tired of seeing those that are only here for the paycheck, those that don’t want to train, those that are so out of shape they couldn’t possibly pull me from a burning building if I were in trouble. Your actions are saying that you do not care about me as your brother firefighter. You don’t care about my wife and kids who are waiting at home for me to walk through the door. “Everyone Goes Home”? Have you heard of it? It’s not just a trendy catch phrase, it should be our number one goal for everything we do.

The Engine Company Thoughts From Captain 180…. Are you fire ground ready? Can you do the job or do you hide in the shadows when there’s a fire? Can you complete routine fire ground tasks without becoming incapacitated? Can you carry a ladder around to the rear of a building, raise it to a second floor window or the roof without having to take a break? Can you then climb that ladder and perform ventilation to improve conditions on the interior for your brothers and sisters? Can you stretch a charged hose line to the rear of a house for a basement fire without being so winded you have to catch your breath before masking up and making entry?

Engineers, do you thoroughly check your apparatus each day or do you just turn on the battery switch and write down the mileage? Can you pump a hose line at the correct pressure, secure a water source, and then troubleshoot any problems that may arise?

3Have you done company training today? Everyday is a training day. Yes, even weekends! Company Officers this is your responsibility. Do you train your company or wait to be spoon fed your training from the Training Division?

Are your RIT skills good enough? Can you use your RIT bag to give me a new air supply in zero visibility with your fire gloves on? When was the last time you had the RIT bag out and went over the various ways to give a downed firefighter air?

I can hear it now, but it’s hot today… it’s Sunday…. it’s National Flower Day! Tough! The citizens that pay your salary don’t care what day it is, my kids waiting at home don’t care what day it is, and neither should you.  Spend at least thirty minutes to an hour every shift training on something.

If the crew cannot perform on the fire ground, it is the company officer’s fault! Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

To those who can quote chapter and verse from the union contract as if it were scripture, but can’t list the responsibilities of the second-due engine or name the three parts of a Halligan and how to use them… I say “How Dare You!”4

What you say is one thing, what you do is another. Your actions are telling me you don’t care about me or my family. You only care about you, about using the union contract to get out of work, as an excuse to not train.

I have spent the past sixteen years as a shift training officer. Let me tell you, I have yet to meet a firefighter that didn’t need to train (myself included). ALL of us need to continually train even on the basics.

With all of this laid out, I can offer you a promise. My promise is to hold all of us to a higher standard. I will no longer tolerate laziness and incompetence. I will call you out at training. I will call you out on the emergency scene.

 I don’t care about your feelings. I only care that you can do the job and if something bad happens, you can get me out.

If you can’t, I say “How Dare You!”

I’ll leave you with one final thought. If something were to happen to me at a fire, can you look my kids in the eye and give them an honest answer when they ask:

“Did you do everything you could to save my Daddy?” Go ahead and give it a try.

This is a picture of my two youngest kids. Tell them that sitting in front of the television or computer was more important than training. Tell them that it was just too hot that day to train, we don’t want to sweat too much. Tell them you just didn’t feel like getting in shape because it took too much effort. (Or better yet, insert a picture of your kids here……)

I’m the only Daddy they have. Are you trained enough, in shape enough to make sure I go home at the end of my shift?

If not, I say “How Dare You!”

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12 Comments

  • Kevin Hurl says:

    Too True, I am a big fan of the saying “you can never train to hard for a job that kill you”

    Well said and I’ll copying the link to this to our brigade Facebook page.

  • Ryan Huffman says:

    I am a volunteer lieutenant in a rural department and I work full time on a medic unit. This article is very powerful and was a very good read. I love to train and train harder everyday that I’m at work or at the volly house and when I’m not there I’m constantly reading articles or watching the quick videos just so I can always learn something new. I am very pro training. Now that I have read this article it makes want to do more training and doing everything I can to ensure everyone goes home because like you said its not just a phrase its real life its not something you just say. I greatly appreciate you posting this article thank you and I hope more people read it and get a reality check.

    Thanks again
    Ryan Huffman

  • Mamamaggie says:

    I totally agree with your comments regarding training and preparation I want to know the person standing next to my son / sons are capable of fighting a fire with knowledge dedication and standing shoulder to shoulder with a motto of ” no man left behind ” the only safety line you have to getting home at the end of the shift is training and knowledge on how to safely fight the red devil …. Stand together .. Be proud .. And know your job

  • Tim Westlake says:

    Steve. Thank you. I to am a Training Officer both in the NYS Department of Corrections as a FBTI and as a CFI/MTO and Lieutenant of a 60 member Volunteer Department. I to do not train enough. I agree with everything you said. My biggest problems are also not the few but the many. As I have grown and trained through my 26 years in the fire service, nothing has ever worried me more when the tones go off. Will I come home to my family? I know I put in the effort and train. I stay in fairly good shape. That being said, this job is about Team work. As with all Volunteer Departments, your membership is a wide range of abilities, ages, attitudes & of course, conditioning. In our surrounding areas of M/A there may be 8-10 firefighters that would be capable of getting me out (220 lbs.) if things go wrong. Lucky to see 2-4 at a big one though. But the real problem is, I do train & condition, but I’m not getting any younger and many Volunteers are coming in much larger sizes today. I’m more worried about not coming home not because of me, but because I gave all to try to get someone out that should not have gone in to begin with. I have had this discussion with my Chief, other Officer, Instructors and even Firefighters. After reading your article, I have a renewed vigor to go back to the table again and battle for what is right and remove the incapable from Active Status. Thanks again.

  • What a great article…you can never be ready enough!

  • well said Capt! I have 2 kiddos myself and there is nothing more important to me then them! Thanks for the great read. It will defiantly get posted. Thank you and as always stay safe brother.

  • Tim Updike says:

    Steve, Well said. I recently retired from a Volunteer Department and this had been happening ever since I first got on in 1991 and is still going on today. One of the reasons I finally hung it up was because they never trained like I thought they should. But not being from this town, the “Good Ole Boy” club is still there, the Chiefs never liked my response to the lack of responsibility they took for leadership. I did what I could but sometimes its not worth beating your head against the wall anymore. Thus retirement and boy does my wife enjoy this. Stay safe

  • Reed says:

    Excellent article, after 30 years on the job I agree. What has always bothered me was why do firefighters too often find themselves in trouble? Why are we on an ice covered roof when we could more easily and safely removed glass from the second story. Why open up a confined space of decades dried wood to the fire which the plaster and drywall was holding back? Why are we rushing into smoke filled buildings without a hose or rope line before ventilation? Better training, both task oriented and physical will save many lives. We could save even more lives by leaving behind the failed tactics of the 20th century. Thank you and be safe.

  • JIM CAMPBELL says:

    Two years ago I was being trained and tested on required performance. I was able to do all but a duties. I attended every training session, asked questions and researched matters related to fire fighting. I couldn’t drag another fire fighter and I had trouble “throwing” a ladder from ground to roof. I was released and realized at my age and physical condition I could very well understand that ALL protocols and tactics must be accomplished otherwise you’re putting your brothers and sisters in danger. I’m now a fire lookout in Sonoma County. Doing so I’m still an asset to my community not only for my county but three others. The Chief was right. The only exception was the necessity to determine if a fire fighter was exposed to an immediate threat. One of the basic protocols is to not put yourself or other firefighters into a situation that was so dangerous that it could put the firefighter an impregnable situation.

  • Limbong says:

    Saya setuju dengan pendapat dan pengalaman anda. Pekerjan rutin seorang petugas pemadam kebakaran adalah berlatih dan terus berlatih.
    Dan apabila di antara teman petugas pemadam kebakaran disini yang mempunyai materi latihan boleh kah saya meminta materi latihan pemadam kebakaran itu ?

    Salam kenal dari saya Petugas pemadam kebakaran bandara kualanamu international Medan Sumatera Utara Indonesia.

  • Jim lang says:

    Direct result of lowering the Standards also and giving everyone a chance! The Job is no longer a calling it’s just a Job to many these days! No more Pride Tradition Brotherhood etc etc….

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