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June 15, 2012, Winnipeg - Writing for Fire Fighting in Canada has always been a privilege. I have truly enjoyed the experiences and insight I have gained into the heartbeat and psyche of the Canadian firefighter. I want this blog to reflect your opinions about the fire service and what makes it so special here in Canada. And while the sky is the limit on topics of discussion, we’re going to have to set some ground rules for engagement if we’re going to share and learn from each other. So, here are some of my beliefs that will set the tone for this blog.

June 15, 2012
By Jay Shaw

Topics

June 15, 2012, Winnipeg – Writing for Fire Fighting in Canada has always been a privilege. I have truly enjoyed the experiences and insight I have gained into the heartbeat and psyche of the Canadian firefighter. I want this blog to reflect your opinions about the fire service and what makes it so special here in Canada. And while the sky is the limit on topics of discussion, we’re going to have to set some ground rules for engagement if we’re going to share and learn from each other. So, here are some of my beliefs that will set the tone for this blog.

First and foremost, I believe that a rural firefighter is equal to a career firefighter. I don’t care how we define it – paid on-call, full time, volunteer, part time, big city, or little town, it doesn’t matter. I agree that there are differences from coast to coast and region to region, but not when it comes to heart, commitment, and passion for the job. Once you’re on the rig you’re alright with me!

Second, I believe in the brotherhood of the job. This includes everyone and is the backbone of the teamwork concept that allows us to function. We work as part of a team, or we fail, period.

And third, this job is an imperfect science. There is no one perfect system, department, or exact way of doing the job; and while this makes it hard to objectively define us, it makes it that much more interesting to talk about. So what should we talk about?

I spent last weekend in a football-coaching clinic getting certified to help out my son’s team. There are similarities between football and fire fighting; both are team games with many things going on at the same time, and all players must to be able to perform their tasks, or the outcome will be determined by the participants’ failures.

Our instructor was trying to teach new coaches (read: officers) a new methodology on scheme assessments for offence. First, assess your situation, and then make your decisions on what scheme or system you will run. Why would you pre-plan your offensive attack before you know what you have for players and which situations you would face? It’s ridiculous to think you can run your offence without the right information for that scheme.

Sometimes, when an import or visitor comes to my hall, we end up in a conversation about pre-plans and how we do things: get the fan going, stretch some lines and go through the front door? Our captain’s usual retort is, “I will tell you what I want when I get there. No pre-plan, assessment first!” I can’t possibly tell you what I want for every situation, so let’s be calm, assess and react. No point running an offensive interior (fire) attack when the game plan says you’ve got to stay outside and attack the perimeters of the field (house).

Does your officer control the apparatus while it is in motion or do you, the driver? How do you determine the route? Do you get told where to go by your officer, or do you use a map or GPS? Have you ever been micro-managed while driving lights and sirens? We’ll cover this delicate situation in the next blog.

For me, it’s all about increasing the officer’s comfort level by adapting to his style. All officers are different and our ability to adapt to personalities is important. I once asked a veteran officer what he thinks about en route, and I was told that the call is being played out in the mind, that he draws on experiences and tries to remember all the what-ifs and possible reactions to different circumstances.

So, while us drivers have a heck of a lot on our plates while driving to the call, we are not the only ones under pressure. However, there comes a point when you may have to speak up if harmony is not achievable. Let me know what you think and we’ll tackle this issue head on, and from the floor. My email is 911writer@mts.net and follow me on Twitter @911writer.

Jay Shaw is a 10-year member of the Winnipeg Fire Department who has
worked in hospital emergency rooms, rural ambulance services and with
the Canadian Forces fire service. He is completing graduate studies in
disaster and emergency management at Royal Roads University. Contact him
at 911writer@mts.net or follow him on Twitter @911writer.


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