It should be a realistic assumption that we do bring our family life into the firehouse with us, in addition to the day’s requisite meal money and that tool you borrowed from a fellow firefighter. It’s nearly impossible to turn off the home stress, arguments with a significant other or child, financial concerns, etc., when you cross the threshold into the firehouse. Dealing with these realities doesn’t always interfere with the day but thankfully, when it does, today’s health and wellness initiatives in the fire service make seeking help much less muddy. Many, including many of the authors in FireRescue, are heavily engaged in this aspect of firefighter mental health and wellness and are doing phenomenal things to improve this fire service deficit. We even have a great article this month from Dr. Nicola Davies on some ways to begin balancing the work and home life.
There is another struggle for balance that is not as overt as an external stressor or attention hog and that is how we balance our careers with everything thrown at us - as we embark on Firefighting 3.0. The fire service is changing considerably, with change coming not just at exponential rates but in completely different manners of services delivered. For instance, did you think that you’d ever be entering an active shooter situation with the cops while the shooter is still at large inside the building you’re about to walk into - wearing body armor? Are you looking at means-of-egress points and openings in the structure to get a flow path profile before committing a hoseline? Are you making house calls with your paramedics to practice community paramedicine in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Will you even be making these house calls next year if the ACA is repealed? I could go on and on with these scenarios and it wouldn’t be hyperbole. These things weren’t even on anyone’s radar after September 11, as we thought interoperability would be the ceiling of our unconventional mission, yet here they are and here we are figuring out how to make it all work.
These and other new initiatives, endeavors, and programs move the center point for our work/skill balance to the left or right considerably; however, it is always up to us to move it back so that we never lose the core mission and principles for which the fire service is still here. I’m talking about fires, extrication, technical rescue, and hazardous materials; remember those? Regardless of what type of body armor you’re specing, the kind of vehicle you’ll be using to make community paramedic house calls, or that new software program to provide you with predictive analytics using Big Data to allocate resources, the service that will always be expected and anticipated by our citizenry, first and foremost, will always be water from a hoseline to put out their fire.
While it may seem trivial to come full circle on what our mission actually is to our communities, we can never lose sight of structural firefighting and, most importantly, the movement, advancement, and application of water on fire. While we need to be the jack of all trades nowadays, we still need to have experts and specialists, purists, and visionaries. Both keep our service growing and grounded at the same time, which maintains this work balance we so desperately need, and we have both in this month’s issue of FireRescue.
Seth Barker, like other great fire service leaders, knows the importance of the basics and takes us back there to show us the “brilliance in the basics” with regard to identifying target hazards in the wildland urban interfacewtcwwdazexrwecwxdct (WUI) and the application of five basic things to mitigate these hazards. He starts off at the bedrock of any firefighting operation as the first of the five: hose work.
Although the engine is the basic unit in the fire service, many seek to become jack of all trades with truck and rescue work, but David Rhodes warns us that we are losing our experts in the push for the generalist. See how David puts this argument into perspective and why we need to refrain from becoming generalists in this profession. And although we can’t just focus on truck work, when we do we also need to focus on emotional rescue, in conjunction with the physical type. This balance ensures that we mentally know that we are part of the solution in rescuing our own mental health and wellness. Balancing the work side of the equation is just as important as balancing the home side of it. Take the time to work on both - as they are equally important, depending on which family you’re with.