Where do you see the fire service in the next 5-10 years?
I see the Fire/EMS service being strained in the next 5 to 10 years. With the ever evolving world there are alot more pressures and responsibilities being placed on an already fairly taxed system. Pretty much gone are the days of mom/pop shops in towns where everyone knows everyone and everyone is a happy go lucky kind of person. Now we have to constantly be on the look out for attacks, foreign and domestic that all spread the service thinly. I see a greater change coming in the Fire/EMS world in the near future that I don't think we have seen in a long time.
Of what you can see why has there been a decline in volunteers over the past decade?
It goes hand in hand with number 1. The busier the system the more taxed the members get and they burn out. Add to that the fact that training requirements are getting more and more, instead of maybe 1 or 2 nights a week being away from the family they are now gone 4 to 5 nights a week between training classes, drills, meetings, and actually taking calls. That adds the stress factor of family/personal relationships on the members. Also this is not a world in that people can wait around all day and night for calls, people have to work. Bills unfortunately just don't go away and work doesn't always just stop because theres a fire or squad call.
Who in the fire service do you look up to as a mentor?
This is hard, and as a matter of fact I can't answer it with a single name, or even a few names. As I was moving up in my career I looked at everyone around me and asked questions, listened to their experiences, learned from their successes and failures. I tried to take the best parts (or what I thought were the best parts) of each of them and mold myself to that. Trying to learn from everyone and gain the experience is crucial to being well rounded. And while having 1 mentor is good, I felt not tieing myself down to just 1 was better.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
Well, as most people know I just recently switched career fields. So all pleasure reading is suspended and has been taken over by Manuals, SOPs, maps, and other new job related material.
Looking at all the areas of the fire service (engine ops, truck co. ops, technical rescue, etc.), what area or areas do you tend to focus on the most? And why?
Since I am not a firefighter, None of the above! Haha, but to change the question slightly and gear it towards EMS, I would say Fire Rehab. Granted, all the other medical/Trauma related aspects of EMS are super important and I do focus on those as well. In my opinion, however, fire rehab is probably the most under-taught, unappreciated, and most misunderstood aspect of EMS. There are so many risk factors that play into the Fire Service especially when there us a large (or sometimes even small) scale event. Depending on the environmental conditions, the scene conditions, the event itself, the human factors, and countless other things, all make a difference in rehab. I could go on forever and bring up cases and first hand accounts and endless other things, but I won't get into that here. I just tend to focus on Fire rehab so that more people understand it and understand why it is so important.
If you were to leave the fire service today, what mark do you hope to leave on it?
I actually kind of already left temporarily. I'm not sure what kind of mark I left on it. I would hope that it was good in terms of my department and the membership. However, that doesn't phase me all that much because the mark of my time can be seen in the countless number of people I have had positice interactions with while treating them or a loved one.
What advice would you give young firefighters or men and women thinking of becoming part of the fire service?
First of all, if you make the commitment stuck to it. Don't half ass it and skim by just to say you were a part of it. Get involved, learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. Learn the sense of pride in your equipment and your work. Never turn down an opportunity to train or work with a piece of equipment. Understand that it is a family and always be there for people who need a helping hand. Don't get upset when asked to do little tasks (clean, take out trash, mop, etc) they are all jobs that need to get done and guess what? Everyone at the stayion did the same thing when they first started. It is just how it goes. Take it seriously, understand that your actions while in ANY type of uniform or department clothing reflect not only on you but also the department and the entire service, you will be held to a higher standard, be ready to live up to that.
What is the driving force behind your success?
The deep down burning desire to help people. I get such a rush when I can go out and help someone. It could be doing training at the station, going out on a call, answering questions, anything. I just love helping people. I also enjoy being a leader and trying to always keep the ship going forward, upgrading technology, upgrading equipment to make things work better, having pride in my department knowing we are the best we can be. Also, my grandmother was a RN for years and I grew up as a little kid listening to her stories of life in the OR and on the floors and I have always wanted to live up to that.
Any that's a wrap for our fourth installment of Station Talk. In our next segment we will sit down with David Wiklanski and learn more about his vision for the fire service and what drives him to be an educator and student of the fire service each and every day.
Until Next Time; Work Hard, Stay Safe & Live Inspired.