In emergency services it is a gamble whether you get a full meal, a fresh meal, a hot meal, or even a meal at all. Yesterday was no different. Lunch was cut short for a possible apartment fire.
Someone called and said his apartment was on fire when, in fact, it was not on fire. We of course didn’t know that so six firetrucks, myself, a medical unit, and three patrol cars responded with lights and sirens….to open his door.
Yep. He just needed his apartment door open.
I still remember how it is to respond on a firetruck. Adrenaline starts pumping when you hear “apartment fire”. You get your turn-outs on as fast as possible. You strap on an SCBA. You make sure you have your mask, helmet, gloves, radio, flashlight. As the officer who’s truck will arrive first, you begin to formulate a plan of action. Who is going to catch the hydrant? Where is the closest hydrant in the first place!? Is there a possibility of entrapment? What if fire is going through the roof? Where will I tell trucks to stage? Who will be RIC (Rapid Intervention Crew)? What additional resources do I need to request?
Then you pull up to the address and you got NOTHIN’. No smoke, no fire. Nothin’. Just a guy standing on the sidewalk wanting his apartment door open.
This is actually nothing new for us. It happens often for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is just because someone is lazy or just a total jerk. Other times….a majority of the time…it is someone who is a mental health consumer, has little to no resources for help, and/or they are just clueless to how things work.
“Lord Help Me”!!! That is literally what I have to say when I exit my vehicle and I know I’ve got to keep my composure. It is very easy to lose your cool when your adrenaline is suddenly thrust into overdrive. VERY EASY. Immediate thoughts pop into your head like “What an idiot” or “What a jerk” or “He needs to go to jail”.
But this man was a mental health consumer. Testosterone was high when I walked up. Frustration was clear, not only for responders but for the man as well. I knew overwhelming him with accusations and anger might make things worse.
Not everyone has the mental capacity to understand that what they did was wrong. And people’s perceptions of their situation can be totally different from yours. I’ve learned through trial and alot of error, that your approach makes a huge difference.
A co-worker said something very simple and poignant one day while we talked about how people approach situations. He said “It’s not that hard to be nice for like 5 minutes.” Even if you have to fake it, try “nice” first.
I’ve noticed over the years that if I take a minute to gather myself before I even have a chance to lose my cool, then I myself am less stressed. Not that I’ve never lost my cool. I’m far from perfect. But it really is simple to be calm. I just remember not everyone thinks like I do. Not everyone functions like I do. Some don’t even know right from wrong.
A confident but calm approach doesn’t, by any means, say you are weak. If anything it says you are strong. You can easily manipulate a situation by being confident, controlled, and calm…even if you have to fake it. And others will follow your lead. I’ve seen it. I’ve used it. I’ve had success with it.
So if what you are doing when dealing with people isn’t working, change it up.
Be calm, cool, and collected.