Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Has the Integrity of "The Game" been Compromised?

If you were to walk into a fire station on any given Sunday, most if not every dayroom television will probably have the big game on. Die hard football fans who rep the team hats, sweatshirts and jackets of their favorite team have a new dilemma. It seems the recent turmoil over pensions with the NFL official's has soiled the game most of us love. So much so that the game has been affected. Games have a new pace..... record number of penalty flags, coaches challenges, and big brother video play backs all of which have effected the tempo. These constant start and stops have some teams scrambling to get into a flow or rhythm.
In the end, whether it is positive or negative the players and coaches have been told by big brother they are not allowed to speak about the officials. The challenge we as die hard fans have, is we had "expectations" on how the game was going to be run... The fire service is no different, Fire Chief's have an expectation on how the day-to-day and emergency operations are going to be run. If your department has a strong officer development program then the transition of a firefighter to a newly promoted officer goes un-noticed. But without that officer development or mentor program in place, the transition can be brutal. This is exactly why we are all upset at the NFL. They have adjusted the rules and modified the game over time, to make it viewer friendly (greater scoring) and ultimately made it safer for the players. When you remove a key component of "the team" in the NFL, the game has to be affected. What we are seeing now is frustrated players adjusting their mindsets to see what they can and can't get away with. It is no different in the fire service when we appoint a firefighter to acting lieutenant or captain. Being passed the badge without proper mental and physical preparation will lead to loss of integrity of the mission. Just imagine if tomorrow your entire officer staff was told they are no longer supervising and the firefighters who have never taken an officer development class are instantly field promoted.
Would the department have turmoil? Would the integrity of the mission, (enforcement of those policies, procedures, and fire ground operations) be affected? Absolutely, would you see good intentioned people just winging it? I think so.... the difference in what is going on in the NFL and the fire service is much more similar than one would think. If a non-prepared officer leads his brothers into an ill fated battle (what I like to call a born loser) the outcome will surely be bleak. When a middle linebacker see's the wide receiver coming accross the middle for that pass, two trains are going to collide, if the delivery of that hit has a lack of concern over policies, procedures or enforcement one will likely come up injured or worse. There was a reason that over the past decade the NFL has been protecting quarterbacks, and the defense-less receiver. Because the integrity of the game, the safety of these massive players, and the business model of the NFL needs these players, coaches, and fans onboard with the mission. Fire Chief's take note, do not fall into the trap of false expectations. You must send your soon-to-be fire officers to an officer school, seek out fire officer development leaders and instructors to come in, or better yet design an in-house fire officer development program so your industrial athletes (our firefighters) are prepared for the expectations of their future mission. It can be as simple as allowing line officer's to mentor future officer's while on duty.
There is nothing wrong with letting the promotional candidates ride in the front right seat on the next automatic fire alarm. Getting a feel for the hot seat, reading the (MDT) mobile data terminal, assisting with clearing the intersections for the chauffeur's blind spot, signing off on the radio with a nice windshield size-up and the establishment of command. I personally think the preparation of the next line officer is not only the responsibility of the Fire Chief and Training Officer, but the candidate's current line officer as well. In my absence, the firefighter on the current promotional list is most likely stepping up to fill in for the troops. It is our responsibility to make sure we don't let the acting officer end up looking like the debacle we currently are seeing on any given Sunday. Because these guy's in pin stripes are truly acting...
Just a quick reminder to check out our other articles on Fire Engineering's Training Blog Network. You can also listen to us live on "Tap the Box" with FETC Services. We host a radio show on the latest fire service training and leadership topics. We would love to hear from you , connect with us on FaceBook, search FETC Services. Take Care and Stay Safe Brothers..... Billy