Many fire service organizations spend countless hours and huge budgets in an attempt at changing our culture to ensure that all of us get to go home in the morning after every shift. Departments across the World digest that information, alter policy, and roll it out to their firefighters in hopes of doing the same.
Much of this staple and paste information is put up in front of firefighters as a goodwill effort of doing the right thing. However, only a small percentage of departments truly champion the cause(s)…and very few are able to make a difference with ALL of the information available in making our jobs safer, us smarter firefighters, and decreasing the number of Line of Duty Deaths (LODD’s) each year.
It is my opinion that most departments who are really good at changing culture in one realm or another have experienced a LODD related to that realm. For instance, a department that experiences a LODD due to apparatus running a red light will probably put more resources in retraining firefighters, strengthening or creating policy against it, and/or tightening the belt on disciplinary action for running red lights. MOST other departments might pass along the news of the LODD, yet not go through the same actions as the department who did suffer the LODD. Some might say this is “playing the odds”.
Close to home
My department had a well known Captain commit suicide several years ago. It was tough. The Brother lived right behind me. I couldn’t believe it happened. I have no clue why he took his own life.
Our department could have done so much more to ensure this didn’t happen again. We didn’t and luckily it has not… I guess some might say we are “playing the odds”.
This past December, my best friend’s brother committed suicide. My friend, Captain Willie Wines Jr., needed help. I had nothing. I didn’t know what to do.
I sat back and watched my Brother spiral downward. I tried some things at different times to get him help, but it didn’t work. Only due to the fact that my network of friends and acquaintances includes some great people in all realms of the fire service was I finally able to find the right help for Captain Wines.
He may say that I did a lot to help him. The truth is that I did very little. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything if he didn’t give me 8 months to figure it out.
What if I didn’t have that network of professionals?
I didn’t go into depth on my actions, thoughts, experience on purpose. I haven’t had the time to really absorb what has transpired. This weekend, Captain Wines and I will be in Albany, NY speaking at the Capital Region FOOLS Training Seminar. I will be offering a talk on my experience, and then Captain Wines will talk about his experience. I imagine this will be as beneficial for each of us as it will be for those in attendance.
If you are anywhere near Albany, NY you should try to be there!
We are not experts on the topic, but we think our experiences have helped us understand the disconnect between needing help and getting help.
I do plan on writing more on this topic in the future. Give me some time to put my thoughts on paper first.
I will leave you with some of the resources that Captain Wines shares:
If you need help, or know of someone who needs help…check them out.
A New Approach to After-Action Reports - Coupled with a new concept called Curbside Manner, the new approach can help firefighters manage potentially distressing calls
New Trauma Screening Questionnaire for Firefighters - Questionnaire helps firefighters feel less stigmatized than traditional counseling methods