More Than the Alarm
As firefighters, volunteer or paid, we are to take a sworn oath to protect and serve our respective communities at any given time day or night. That is a tall order. Put this in perspective. The men and women of the fire and EMS service risk their lives for total and complete strangers. It starts with the 911 call, all the way to the after-action report (AAR) to see what was done correctly and what can be done to make the service provided better. This is done every single day. It’s what the community sees. It's what the social media platforms see. However, there is a lot behind the curtain that the public does not see.
As mentioned before, fire and EMS personnel must take a sworn oath. That oath is not just for the community. It’s for their families, their friends, their loved ones. When the alarm goes off, the public sees lights and sirens. In that moment they see it, a sense of wonderment and confidence washes over them. They know when they see us in action, that someone is being taken care of. However, it’s the hours after the alarm that is not noticed.
Every single day there must be chores done at the station, equipment checking, training, and being ready to go on calls on the spot. For volunteers, the task is even harder because they are not at the station 24 hours a day, yet they still carry out the oath. As a volunteer currently, I still wake up at 3am when the pager goes off, get dressed, leave my family, and respond to the firehouse to get in gear, get in the truck and go to a call that most of the public sees as routine, i.e. fire alarms, smell of smoke.
The amount of training that goes into fire and EMS is astonishing. Hours to months to years. After being in the fire service for 15 years, I still go to classes that will get me more proficient at upholding the oath to my community. So aside from the calls and all the time that needs to be spent at the firehouse away from our families, we now need to add more time away to go to class. The public has no idea about this. After training and classes there are meetings, details, and so on that need to be completed. What fire and EMS agencies see on a day to day basis is never easy. There is a lot of sickness, fires, car accidents, and death. Some of the incidents seen are sometimes hard to deal with, and that also takes a toll on the crew members and their families. The public does not know this at all. They do not see the hardships that we go through.
In your community, how many people do you think know a few crew members of the local fire and EMS agencies? It would be an average of 2-3 crew members. If the community got to know some of the staff, came and saw the stations and saw what their tax dollars go to, then when you arrive on scene at their worst moment, they know that you are going to give your best efforts to save life and property. It's always so rewarding to hear someone in the community call you by your first name. When that happens, it’s clear that the community is embracing its services.
The public needs to see that we are more than the alarms that go off. We are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. We risk our lives every single day and will continue to do so. We promised you. So, I say to all agencies who are reading this article, take the time to get to know your taxpayers. Have an open house, have a food drive, have anything that will give the community an opportunity to know that you do more than drive with lights and sirens. The more you know about them, the more they will WANT to know about your services. I promise you, your jobs will be much more enjoyable.