As you may or may not know, I'm a faculty member at a local Fire Science Bachelors program. Currently, I'm in the process of designing a new class for our program about Fire Service Personnel Dynamics. I find the topic facinating, because the more you travel around and meet firefighters, the more you see how each department's culture is as different as it's equipment. Some places everyone loves to promote, and other places people want to ride the back forever. Some places SOG their operations to death, and others let the officers make intelligent and safe decisions. It is amazing the variance of the American fire service even within the same county. Quite often we see departments who are too safety concious, while we see others who don't care. Which one is your department? Also, where is that happy medium located? There is not a single department with the exact right mix of safety, training, fun, and fireground aggressiveness to make all firefighters happy (If that is even possible). Two things are common throughout the fire service though, we like to bitch about things, and the dinner table is the center of the firehouse.
As I always do, I challenge you to attempt to make where you work or volunteer a safer place each day. Maybe that means everyone spending some time talking about an LODD, maybe it means having "Storytime" with one of the vets, maybe it means stretching some hoselines, maybe it means taking the crew out to dinner for everyone to just break bread together outside of the normal confines. Either way, you need to have the crew around the dinner table (or at least together in one room) three times a day. First, at roll call, and then of course at 12 and 6 for lunch and dinner (Supper).
Too many don't see the dinner table as a place where safety can be taught or learned, but it really is. We can learn more about one another and build or gain fire ground trust here, enough said. The dinner table is a facinating place in the fire station. I think if we could get some key world officials in on some of our meals we could save the world, cure cancer, and win every war. But seriously, how much trust have you lost or gained for a person during the fire house meal? I know I have caught myself saying "Man I hope we don't have to see this guy pull a line, or do CPR today" while listening to someone at the meal. Also, this is the place where firehouse story time often takes center stage. As my buddy Jason Jefferies just posted on his blog Working the Job (Link to the Right), the old guys often can have some knowledge to pass on to the rooks and many times this stuff is passed on at a meal or roll call.
This is also the place in the fire house where we solve many of the internal personnel conflicts we have. This problem solving allows for us not to be fighting on emergency scenes, since we take care of it at our home. Sometimes people get their feeling hurt at the table, but they usually leave the room understanding where they stand with their colleagues. All of us need to understand that lunch and dinner is where we can make our crew a stronger and safer crew. The more we can solve our issues and get to know each other the safer we will be on the scene.
My point is that we need to spend time together at the station. In the modern fire service there are so many distractions that interfere with the fellowship time in the firehouse. I find myself in this trap, surfing the internet, and "facebooking". However, I do make it a goal to spend time with the crew whether I like them or not, so we can enjoy the one of the best parts of our job, the fellowship. Of course there are places where I thank god I have an office that I can hide in, but there are other places where I wish the station was one big room so noone could hide out. Remember that fellowship and being a team are two important elements within the firehouse, and they always unite around the dinner table.
Spend some time figuring out how to make your department safer, so that everyone can go home at the end of the day. And if you follow my philosophy, this may give you an excuse to go drink a beer with the guys to be safer at work, or spend more time at the dinner table.....your wife might believe it who knows.