For Love of the Job

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Firefighters will tell you that Firefighting is more of a lifestyle and less of a job. Although “job” is what it tends to be referred to, the word has more meaning than what outsiders realize. That is just one thing that outsiders or “civilians” don’t realize about our “job”.

Firefighting is one of those jobs that is very hard to explain or even justify. For example, whenever it suits the media or taxpayers, many like to refer to the down-time we have. The fact that we have to go to the grocery store, and sit down to eat meals, kick back to watch the evening news, and even sleep between calls at night grates on some peoples nerves. They do not realize that we could be in the middle of anything…and have to go on a call. We don’t finish what we were doing, we go.

How do you think your wife (spouse) would feel if you were in the middle of a heated argument and had to cut the argument short to run a call? What about cooking a nice meal for the family, getting your plate loaded up and sitting down to dig in after a hard days work…and having to go on a call.

We spend 24 hours at our assigned station, or get transferred to another station to spend 24 with other firefighters. We enjoy what we do, or we wouldn’t do it. If we didn’t enjoy it, it would not be worth risking our lives for others.

That is our mentality. Sure we might not risk our lives every day, but we are willing, capable, and trained to do so. Most civilians do not realize the extent of our dedication to our jobs. That is what we are paid to do after all. To protect the lives and property of the citizens and visitors of Roanoke City. Those words may not mean much and you might not give them much thought at all. I guarantee you that every Firefighter thinks about this from time to time; and every Spouse of a Firefighter thinks about this often.

Over 100 firefighters die each year in the line of duty while they are working. Hundreds more die each year from job related illnesses and injuries i.e. cancer, hepatitis, trauma, and diseases. Hundreds more are disabled each year from injures on the job. When Firefighters retire, their bodies are worn out and tired.

The Roanoke Fire-EMS Department always scores high marks from citizens for our service. We are a dedicated bunch.

However, public opinion of Firefighters is that we are out of sight and out of mind. You don’t think about us until you need us, and at that time we had better perform like you want us to. But what if we had fallen into a state of disrepair, what if we had not been trained properly, what if we didn’t care anymore, what if our trucks didn’t run, what if we didn’t know what to do? This wouldn’t be the time for you to find out would it?

I am not saying that our Department has gotten to this point, but it could because our voices are not being heard. One reader of the blog thinks that since the Fire Chief said so then he must be right. What if that Fire Chief told all of his firefighters to jump off of a bridge? Since that reader thinks he is right, we would all jump. Not a chance, and we would be there to save that naive reader from jumping as well. But that one reader wouldn’t be the only one, his thought process is the same as many.

But I digress, this isn’t about our Administration it is actually about the citizens. We need your help in making sure we are taken care of. I don’t mean so that we are overpaid. I just mean that when the next alarm sounds, we have enough firefighters on scene quickly with the proper resources at hand to do the job efficiently, effectively, and safely.

Historically, change in the Fire Service is often brought about by trial and error. The trial is usually found in training because Firefighters like to keep our job simple and easier. The error is usually tragedy in which Firefighters are hurt or killed in the Line of Duty.

However, change isn’t always that easy. For instance, consider the posts on this blog and the comments shared by others. There have been many posts and comments which have argued right and wrong, the lack of leadership, and the faults of certain directives, policies, procedures, and planning. These thoughts offered mostly by Roanoke City’s Bravest have united many of them as well as helped them understand others points of view. The combination of commenting and reading by many has helped educate each other (and myself) of thoughts and feelings I might not have considered.

Now think about if tragedy were to strike in whatever form or fashion. Will change occur then? I think so. Which is exactly the problem. We should be fixing these issues now, not making them worse so that tragedy is averted. Unfortunately, our department is run by playing the odds. Why is our Administration happy with 70% for this and 80% for that and 90% for that. Using those statistics to prove that we do a pretty good job getting there quickly enough most of the time. What if that other remaining % had a name? What if there were faces to go with that “acceptable loss”? Why aren’t we striving to make it 100% across the board? Is 90% the new 100%? Do we even care about who gets left behind because of our “supposed” budget shortfalls.

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