The “B” Word

There is one thing that the Fire Service has universally created, fostered, and grown throughout its history that I truly admire, respect, and wish we could bring to the Emergency Medical Services.


You hear the word come out quite often from all levels of the Fire Service when discussions are about work conditions. You see the word in action during times of crisis, usually during a line of duty injury or death, to support and provide whatever is needed. You feel the word when you walk into a firehouse at dinner time and sit down at the kitchen table to break bread, laugh, and swap tales from calls long past.

This is what truly differentiates the Fire Service from both Law Enforcement and the Emergency Medical Services.

Why It Matters

There is a reason why the fire service is perceived to be as strong as it is. The unity that the sense of brotherhood provides has brought great power to bear when situations, both political and civil in nature, need to be resolved for the betterment of the whole organization. When I talk about the “whole organization”, I mean the Fire Service itself and not an individual department. Admittedly this is more of a global perspective that we aren’t necessarily used to looking from, but we need to start looking at it this way sooner rather than later.

Chief Mick Mayers of Firehouse Zen, one of my favorite fire service and leadership reads, recently had this to say in a post titled Labor Day Conflict:

When individuals choose to advance their personal values over the needs of the whole, they lose track with the reality that the organization is an organism which has many parts and systems. If any of those parts fails due to the neglect or lack of community with the whole, then the whole perishes. You can’t kill off a part to your benefit if you expect the whole organization to keep producing, and yet, it continues, mostly because of greed, selfishness, and ego.

KnockoutWe spend too much time and effort promoting and furthering ourselves and our individual organizations while putting other organizations with the same mission down. While some will cite commercial entities competing against one another as the inherent source of this evil nature, why then do municipal agencies and volunteer squads openly malign them for this capitalist behavior? If the commercial entities are the source, why then do the career municipal agencies join them equally in criticizing the volunteers for inexperience and providing a lack of consistent quality service? Why do the commercial entities and volunteers condemn career municipal agency members for the perceived lackadaisical response times and overall laziness in responding to calls? The only aspect in common with all three is that they equally rail against the other two.

As Chief Mayers pointed out, you can’t kill off a part and expect the whole to keep producing. This includes agency types. The sooner we realize that we are all part of the greater whole that is the Emergency Medical Services, the sooner we can promote some unity, the sooner we can develop ourselves into a caring brotherhood like the fire service, the sooner challenges will be able to be overcome with the power of that purpose.

So what’s stopping us? Let me know your thoughts in the comments…