Define.

This time of year is so draining. I’d like to say it’s just the heat, but it’s not.

It’s the heart. It’s the mind. Its the profound memories. It’s the things you have no control over. The insights.

Certain times of years remind you of what you lost and/or what you let go of. Things happen that open your eyes wider so you see truth. Moments and truths that give you “ah ha’s”, “duh’s”, and “well, shit’s”. Things that are said or done that define for you….

Define courage.

Define wisdom.

Define adaptability.

Define love.

Define family and friendship.

But remember and be open to the fact that they can define the lack of each just as quickly. Sometimes louder.

You begin to see things for what they are worth. Sometimes what you thought was worth something turns out to be worthless. And that can change you.

Let those worthless things go. Let any change be for a better you.

Stick to the worthwhile things that are defined…

The worthwhile love. The worthwhile family and friendships.

Stick with those who are courageous, wise, and adaptable.

And make any changes you need to be courageous, wise, and adaptable yourself.

A worthwhile you.

Letters of shame

Not too long ago I was informed that I had a crew that was “deficient” in a subject matter. I was taken by surprise with this. But then again I wasn’t. That might make sense to you if you know me, or it might not.

Anyways…over the years I have honed in on the skill of finding out all sides of a story before popping off at the mouth.

Note I said “honed in”….not “mastered”. Ha! I’ve lost my shit and been wrong. I’ve eaten several “I apologize” in my time. I’ve probably apologized more for crap I didn’t do than anything else. But that’s the game. (That’s another blog for after retirement…when I can unleash. Hahaha!)

So I’m told how they don’t know basic information. How not knowing this information could get people killed. A couple of examples were given that made it sound like the “defiency” in this one crew could have killed us all…. although the crew had no part in the decision making of either example. I did.

I read it, and stored it for a later day. Why? When you engage in your employees, you get to know them, and you pay attention to how they act in certain situations, you can usually grasp whether accusations are true, somewhat true/somewhat false, or false. I already had a sense of what was true and what was false.

When dealing with complaints, be sure and take in all factors for BOTH the accused and the accuser….who, what, where, when, how, why. In this case I did just that. And I then felt the need to roll my eyes. (Saying that will probably get me a write up….or I’ll have to apologize. Hahaha! You know as well as I do that people will read this and twist it.)

I finally got around to speaking with my crew. It was a basic training session to go over stuff that we rarely deal with. My guys were rusty. They admit that. That’s a truth.

Another truth while I mentioned it… They were no where near as rusty as their boss’s boss…aka ME. Hell, when I read what they had been asked I couldn’t have rattle the answers off either. And don’t even ask me what I thought the piece of equipment they were referring to was used for…..

The issue boiled down to this…..when he was asked a question he couldn’t remember right off the bat. Didn’t rattle anything off fast enough. Didn’t have information memorized that we get from a resource we carry all the time….a reference book.

So what happens next? The instructor immediately acts like an asshole about it…in front of everyone. Well, when you pop off like an asshole, chances are the person you are belittling in front of other people will immediately shut you out.

Whether they pop back off at you, they decide to walk off, they get upset, they report your behavior, or they just shut down and don’t talk anymore, they are shutting you and your “instruction”, your “knowledge”, your “authority” out.

And that’s what happened.

Approach is everything. Lack of tact and too much ego aren’t skills I ever remember hearing about being effective. Especially not in this day and age.

You just look like an egotistical asshole. And once that happens, it is hard to get your credibility back. I speak from experience. I’ve been that asshole.

Contrast

The contrast from one event to another is very interesting in the first responder world. I feel it has a huge part to do with acute stress that first responders build. This is just one example of the 1000’s I’ve had. It was the latest. I would love to hear others from any first responders.

Last shift I worked was the final night of a major festival in our city that occurs in the district I am responsible for. The last night of this festival includes a huge fireworks display.

I have some freedom in the position I have so I met my family at a location near the festival to watch the fireworks. I stopped for ice cream for my children on the way. I made it about 10 minutes with them before a vehicle accident with entrapment came across the radio. Being the closest Battalion Chief, I responded to assist.

The only patient was the passenger in a large truck. His wife was driving and their young son was in the back seat. They were hit head on by an alleged drunk driver. Another car had been following the swerving vehicle for a few miles. From what I was told, he was calling the police to report him. Then BAM…during his efforts to protect, the vehicle hits a family head on. Imagine what he felt seeing that.

The victim was very critical and unresponsive. He was what we call a “load and go” due to his condition. He was loaded into an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

While he was being loaded into the ambulance, his wife and son we’re watching. His mother had been contacted and came to the scene. When she saw him she immediately went into shock and became another patient.

When the incident was taken care of I left and drove right straight to where my family was. My husband and 2 children. We got to listen to some great music and watch an incredible fireworks display together.

In a matter of 30 minutes, I went from a scene of broken and twisted metal, a broken body, and a broken life to ice cream, music, and fireworks.

The contrast.

Men and Microwaves

I’m pretty sure that among the majority of men there are standard procedures for certain things.

One of those things are microwaves.

I can’t remember one time in my 20+ years in the fire service that I didn’t have to reset a microwave before I could use it.

3 seconds left…..

I’m not too far off

Everytime I post about leadership, I wonder if I sound like a complete idiot. Sharing how I feel I try to manage things isn’t easy. What if I’ve got it totally wrong? When if the people I work with really just hate my guts? I will just sound like a fool.

 I know I’m not a perfect leader and I don’t meet all the best qualities like I should. But I don’t think any of us do.

One thing I know for certain is that the only way to become better at ANYTHING you do, is to first be open to the fact that there may be a better way.

As I scroll through Google and read leadership articles I begin to realize that my style isn’t so bad. I also read things that stand out to me…things I need to improve on…things I need to try. Self awareness is the key to doing just that. 

The following article from Fire Rescue Magazine lays out some key characteristics for successful leadership. Do you possess any of these? 

http://www.firerescuemagazine.com/articles/print/volume-4/issue-5/command-leadership/key-characteristics-of-successful-leaders.html

Teamwork 

While I was skimming through Pinterest I saw this quote posted by hhtp://hyplyrikz.com and it immediately jumped out at me. 

Looking back over my years as a middle manager I feel like this quote encompasses the route I tried to take when I made this rank. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like my team and I have accomplished and continue to “tweak” coming together, keeping together, and working together.

Here some things I found to be helpful when I became a supervisor of a large team  made up of smaller teams that work together in life and death situations. Teams that work, live, eat, and sleep together.

-Take the “we work together” approach. I despise saying my co-workers work under me or for me. I know all to well what it is like to feel insufficient simply because I was a lower rank. So when I took this supervisor position I decided to observe more at first than go in blazing with my shiny extra bugle on display saying “I’m the damn boss!!”

They already know I’m the boss. 

I was fortunate to take a position in a familiar area. I actually became a supervisor of men who had supervised me at one point. Talk about ackward! (That could make a whole separate blog!)

But that ackward was an advantage. I knew how they operated. I knew their triggers. I was ahead of the game coming together with them.

The ones I hadn’t worked with I observed. I let them do their thing. See how they operate. See how they handle their people. See how they handle chaos.

How long did I observe? Long enough to figure out what changes we needed to make for all of us to come together as a cehosive group. That time line could be different in other circumstances.

-Understand different management styles. Understand different methods of conflict resolution. Know when to use ANY of them. 

Policies, procedures, and laws aside, everyone has a different style of management. Your way might not be the right way in certain circumstances. Hell, it might just flat out suck for those you supervisor. Meanwhile your walking around like a cock. 🐓

Do you need to be an expert in all styles? No. You just have to be open to the FACT that there are other styles and that they might just work better than yours.

-Ask what they need in a supervisor. Most of my officers said they just wanted to be able to do their job and not be micromanaged. I completely get that because I don’t want to be micromanaged either. Especially after 20 years at the job.

It’s not hard to let people do their job if you have the mind set that you aren’t the “all knowing”. It’s not hard if you don’t have an ego the size and force of a freight train.

You don’t need to remind them or scold them on EVERY little thing. If all the little things become consistent problems then let them have it. But until then, have some confidence in your people.
-Have over all goals and make them clear to your team.

My goal: We all go home physically and mentally in tact. Instead of using dumb luck, let’s work safer and more efficiently. We need to share the work load.

I cut out some things that were breaking up our numbers and our crew integrity. I simply reiterated that operating safely and efficiently was my main focus. The more working hands, the better. And I kept it as consistent as possible. 
Some people who wanted to operate at the bare minimum just because that’s how it had always been done. But once they saw consistency and they saw the burden lifted off even their own shoulders, they understood and accepted it.

-Be a guide and a sounding board.

 When a crew is having issues amongst itself it is important to listen and guide the officer. Not immediately step in and take over unless it’s a safety issue. 

Don’t take power away from your officers. And don’t step in and do everything for them. Help them figure it out. Be open minded to how they may deal with something or someone. 

Who knows…They may be better at it than you. And you could learn something. 

-Last but not least, keep your mouth shut. Don’t go running your mouth about what someone asked or told you. Don’t share the issues with everyone else. That is the FASTEST way to destroy crew and team intergrity and make you look like nothing but an asshole.

Be aware that when you are constantly talking about things you don’t need to behind people’s backs, they eventually find out. And then all the trust and respect goes out the window.

_____________________________
Thanks for taking time to read my post. Like and share for me if any of it made sense to you. Ha!

Fire Service question: Fog nozzle or Smoothbore 

There have been a recent changes to how things are done that effect a department and city. I am curious to other opinions from firefighters and Operations level officers who work and make decisions on aerial apparatus deployment in a variety of incidents.

So here are my questions:

-Do you think an aerial truck should have a fog nozzle attached for immediate deployment? Or do you think an aerial truck should have a smoothbore nozzle on it? 

-Do you feel it should be standard across an entire department? Or do you feel it should be dependent on primary district needs?

I would like to say that I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer that will cover ever incident. We work in an unpredictable profession. I do, however feel that one of these choices is better than another. 

With that being said, I’m not here to debate or argue. I don’t even plan to reveal which  I personally think is better. I simply want some feedback on how departments across the country do things. This is just out of my personal interest.

Thanks for stopping by and thank you for any feedback.

And most importantly…Stay safe, brothers and sisters.

Lost my shit

Well, it happened. I lost my shit on a call. Luckily I didn’t cuss anyone in particular out. But I was hot. And I had to leave before I punched someone in the throat. (Not really…well, maybe….)

I took a mother to see her dead child. And within a second of being able to touch her child she was ripped away by people who apparently thought that was best for her. 

If you found out your child had been killed in a car accident, arrived at the scene, and had to walk by where they lay under a sheet, would you want to see, touch, hold, kiss, your child while they were still warm?

Yeah. Me too. And to witness a mother being stripped of her right to do that absolutely did me in. 

No one should feel that they have the right to say what a person can and cannot see when their loved one is killed, even if it is traumatic. 

Just because you are too weak to assist them through that process doesn’t give you the right to deny them that time with their loved one. 

THE BAR

https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10155294793981939/

She nails it! Just be prepared, when you speak up not only for yourself but for those around, some of the “fools” might not like it. 

Some find they need to “put you in your place”. They won’t hesitate to use how you are as a woman to humilate you. And they won’t ever see how what they do impacts everyone around them. 

That is on THEM! NOT YOU. Don’t pretend to be anything other than what and who you are. If that is a totally feminine woman, so be it. If that is masculine qualities mixed with some femininity, so be it. If that is all male qualities in a female’s body, so be it. 

Does that mean that your way is always the right way? No. It doesn’t.

Does that mean you shouldn’t find ways to work around differences in a professional manner? No. It doesn’t. 

Does that mean you have no  responsiblity to learn how to work WITH men instead of against them? No it doesn’t. 

Offended as a woman right now? Wondering how I could say such things? Are you reading what I just said as “bowing down” to the man?

Let me set you straight. There is no “bowing down”. There is picking battles and learning when to compromise. There is a huge amount of learning. There is a lot of time focusing on self-awareness. 

It’s give and take, ladies. And your approach is crucial. And timing is everything. If you immediately go at it like “I’m a woman, hear me roar.”, you won’t get far. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen over and over. And I’ve tried it at the wrong time and totally failed. 

The approach that has worked best for me over the years is to be quiet at first. Now let me explain something, I say “over the years” because that’s how long it has taken. I’m now at a point where I’ve been around long enough that in most situations, I don’t give a shit. But I always take the same approach. 

Does that mean allow them to harrass, degrade, or embarrass you? Um, hell no. Stand up for yourself if needed. Being “quiet” doesn’t mean being submissive. 

And I am going to go ahead and throw this out there before you read any further…men are simple. We are complex. Do not expect every man to put forth the mental effort and energy as you do. Like I said before…it’s picking battles and compromising where needed. 

When you enter a new environment filled with men you don’t know well, don’t immediately start spilling  your guts about anything  and everything.

I’m not saying be meek and mild and don’t speak at all or don’t stand up if needed. I just mean be conservative with what you share at first. And in reality, you should be conservative with what you share at all times. Not everyone is your friend or can be trusted. This includes other women (an entirety different topic and blog subject!). 

Join the group. Join the pertinant conversations. Join in the work load. Do your best. Don’t skimp. Accept some help every now and then if you need it. And certainly offer help.

Always remember there will be times when YOU are wrong and YOU are being  a fool. Own it if you mess up. And own it before someone else throws it at you. Stronger people admit they have flaws. They are self-aware and they are always monitoring how the perform. They eventually surround themselves with others  who compliment them and succeed in areas they may be slacking. It’s called ” being a team”.

This doesn’t happen overnight, in the first week, on every project, in every situation. It has taken me years to get comfortable with where I am as a woman among men. And I still have plenty of trials and errors. 

It is in those times of trial and error when you will see who has your back and who doesn’t. There is a very distinct difference in being told you messed up or that you are wrong and being “put in your place” because you are a woman. 

Trust me. I know all too well what that is like. 

There has been a time recently that I almost let it break me. But with the love and support of my rock of a husband, family, friends, counseling, and some awesome guys I work with, I came out stronger than ever.

Life is too short to let “the bar” beat the shit out of you. So stand above the fools and their bar. 

It’s never a simple extrication: Part 1

The following are some vehicle wrecks my coworkers and I have encountered that make you go “Hmmmmm…..”. 

“That’s not good.”

“How are we going to get this done?” 

“How the hell did they manage that?” 

“We are going to be pushing the limits of this person’s golden hour.”

“This sucks.”

“How are they even alive?”

This vehicle was a good 500 feet off the interstate, down an embankment, into the woods, in the middle of the night, while it is pouring down rain. See the reflecting stripes of turnout coats? Not really, I know, but they are in there.

It got called in as a trapped driver in a burning vehicle. Luckily for this kid a good samaritan pulled him out of his truck before he burned up. And of course he couldn’t walk out thanks to a very broken femur. But, he lived.

This extrication was several years ago when I was a Captain on an engine company. And this picture was taken AFTER the guy was in route to the hospital.

At some point in the middle of the night, this poor fella drove off the free way Dukes of Hazard style and landed upside down in a retaining pond. Of course this retaining pond was next to a deadend road that led to a manufacturing business area. So no one saw him until the next morning.

He was upside down just feet away from drowning. We have no idea how long because he was unconscious when we cut him out. I have no idea if he lived.

Then there was this guy. Not quite sure what he was thinking or if he even was. For some reason he took a sharp right turn where the was no right turn. Fortunately only a rock wall sustained some injury. The driver was able to climb down the ladder with no problem.

On a somber note, this extrication turned into a body recovery. For some reason this couple decided to take a short cut through the college campus. They chose to take the stairs… literally. 

Unfortunately the bounce at the bottom flipped them and crushed the un-seatbelted driver. The passenger walked away unscathed. 

And finally, one of the people who keeps us safe on the roads got hit while he was parked on the side of the interstate. The box truck that hit him landed on it’s side and the DOT truck went for a ride down into a ravine. It took a minute for people calling 911 to realized the DOT truck was the one who had someone trapped in it. 

He was one of my buddies. Someone who I’ve worked with for 5 years. Someone who is always looking out for us. I am so thankful that he lived. Although his status for returning to work is unknown.
We never know what we are going to find when we pull up to any scene. Working on the fly and adapting and overcoming is imperative. I am fortunate to work with men and women who can do that.