StopBad: June 2019
By Gord Schreiner
By Gord Schreiner
Forty-three years in the fire service (so far) and I am very proud in so many ways. The fire service has impacted, and continues to impact, my life and so many other lives in a very positive way.
I have made many lifelong friends and I am pleased with what I have accomplished. I love the fire service.
On the other hand, I am also embarrassed by the very few “bad apples” that are out there in the fire service. There continues to be numerous stories about members of the fire service behaving badly. These stories surface on a regular basis. I feel hurt just hearing the bad stories, as I know we can do better.
I strongly believe that good leadership is vital to any good organization. If leaders of the organization are acting badly, or not correcting the bad acting, the negative effect ripples throughout the entire organization.
There have been so many stories lately about members of the fire service behaving badly that I think we could start a reality series titled, “Firefighters Gone BAD!” Unfortunately, there would be a lot of content.
I should also note that some of these firefighters were “bad” to start with and should have never been hired or promoted in the first place.
With this in mind, we need to ensure that we are hiring the right people (careers and volunteers) and teaching them right. We need to let them know that inappropriate behaviour will not be accepted in our organizations.
The reality series would include stories of firefighters making racist remarks, drinking and driving, drinking in public vehicles or at the fire stations, using drugs. bullying, misuse of public vehicles, misuse of public funds, receiving gifts for spending public funds, inappropriate relationships, conflicts of interest, firefighters with fake certificates/degrees, and chief officers with little to no formal training. Need I go on … ?
This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable, shameful and gives the entire fire service a black eye. If this is our best, we had better get a handle on this quickly before it is too late and the entire fire service suffers.
I believe the problem has been around for a while, but with social media the stories get shared much easier and faster than they did in the past. We need to hold each other accountible. We need to call the bad actors out.
When you accept a position as a firefighter you have an obligation to be honest and ethical.
I know that 99 per cent of firefighters out there are doing the right things right, but that small per cent of “bad actors” is sure making us all look bad.
One of the most important things in your life should be your reputation and the reputation of the organization you represent. Good or bad, your reputation is known by the people around you. You are accountable for you. No one else is.
Do what is right and you should have no worries. Do wrong and you could lose your job and your reputation very quickly.
I believe we in the fire service need to continue being part of the solution by letting others know if their behaviour is unacceptable. It would be nice if they could figure this out themselves, but sadly many can’t. Their bad behaviour and bad reputation hurts us all.
Annual surveys show that the fire service is one of the most trusted professions. This will surely change if we do not take the necessary steps to address this problem.
It is time to clean house. There are a lot of great people out there who are ready to step up and make a positive difference. Let’s call these bad apples out and let them know that their bad behaviour is unacceptable. By doing so, you might help them correct their careers before it is too late and you will help us all to continue to make the fire service better. You may even help save lives.
I have a reputation of speaking up and saying what is on my mind and I plan on continuing this until I retire in a few years. If I think it is wrong, I’ll say so. I would ask that you do the same. Let’s get these bad examples out of here.
And, a big thank-you to all the great firefighters out there.
Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is a full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C., where he also manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @comoxfire.