12/31/2018 - 10:45 AM EST - I believe that for most of us, it is hard to believe that 2018 is just about finished. In just hours from now, the balls, the oranges, the triangles, the pyramids, etc., will drop down on their cables and ring in the New Year of 2019. Wow! We are just about ready to complete the second decade of the 21st Century. Where the Hell is my flying car?!?!
Flying cars and/or hovering fire apparatus or not, the new year will be hear soon. As happens every year, numerous newscasts and other television shows will conduct a review on 2018, most often in pictures. There will be photos of big events, both positive and otherwise; photos of those famous people who passed away this year, etc.
However, I submit to you that most of us can look back relatively quickly. What is truly important is, what lies ahead. What will differentiate 2019 from 2018? And I don't mean the "resolutions" that we see every year. I believe it was either last year or the year before that I saw a news story about new year's resolutions. I believe it said that less than ten-percent of resolutions are actually carried out. Not a great statistic, huh?
The fact is, that you and I can change that percentage. Instead of resolutions, set goals you wish to achieve in 2019. And make sure they are realistic goals that can be met. Let's be honest, most of you who are reading this are probably firefighters or other first responders. One thing we love to do is brag! We love to tell the story of the, "Big One," or the one where the, "...the truck blew up just as I rescue three people from the SUV..." Let's promise each other that we're going to leave the bragging out of our goal setting!
So, what goals do you want to set? Let's also leave the "lose 40 pounds in 30 days," off the list for now, as well. Here are a few ideas:
1. I plan on monitoring my health. I will have an annual physical as per the IAFC/IAFF or NVFC guidelines. I will listen to my primary care provider and will follow through on any tests he/she believes are directly connected to me as a firefighter. I will not place my department or family in a precarious position by hiding any significant medical findings from them and continuing to perform as though nothing is wrong.
2. I will learn as much as possible about the Firefighter Cancer Initiative. I will remain, "on-air," will all my turn-out gear, hood and helmet on until such time as I am clearly in the "Cold Zone" or advised by an officer that I can go, "off-air."
3. Once in the designated "Gross Decon Zone," I will remove my gear and use wipes to wipe the soot, toxins and carcinogens from my face, neck, ears, etc. I will then have follow the balance of our on-site, Gross Decon SOP's.
4. Upon returning to the station, I will do my best to "shower within the hour," and follow such procedures that will prevent me from spreading toxins and carcinogens are the station and my home.
5. I will learn about the Firefighter Behavioral Health Initiative. I will be aware of those around me, my second family. I am all too aware of the toll some of our calls take on me. Add the pressures of our personal lives today, I understand that life can be very difficult. I want to be sure that my friends, my comrades, are doing OK.
6. In a discussion, whether at the firehouse or online, I will do my best to present my side in a mature manner and not resort to vitriol, yelling and bullying on line with those who may disagree.
7. I am a firefighter (EMT/Paramedic - LEO) 24/7, whether I am in uniform or not. I will do my best to proudly represent my agency to the public.
8. As a first responder, I understand that I must continue to learn. I cannot arbitrarily "draw a line in the sand," to say, "I know what I have to. I don't need to learn any more!"
9. As a first responder, it is my obligation to be a teacher or mentor. It is important that I pass on the "tricks of the trade" to those coming up behind me, so that they will perform well.
10. I am just another person; no better or worse than the person next to me. I will remember to maintain my humility and dignity to everyone I speak with and treat them with the respect I I would expect.
To all, have a Safe, Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Peaceful New Year!
From the last bite of turkey on Thanksgiving to the final sip of your beverage of choice on New Year's Day, this is supposed to be a season of joy and gladness. The mad rush for holiday articles, trees, Hanukkah menorahs, lights, candles, air-filled lawn decorations, etc., often help to re-direct our thoughts away from the real nitty-gritty of our every lives. However, any of you who have been a first responder through even a single holiday season will realize that all too often, the representation from above is not always the case. No matter the season, no matter the day, we respond when "invited."
For some reason, I have only recently subscribed to Chief Billy Goldfeder's, "The Secret List," and I now realize, even more than ever before, what a powerful and positive messenger Chief Goldfeder is for us. Yet, when I see a new email from "The Secret List," I often cringe with fear and uncertainty. And that has truly been the case the past couple of weeks. For while we (using the inclusive) first responders, should be able to enjoy all the excitement of the holiday season, our devoted vocation or avocation pulls us out of the mainstream to address one form of emergency or another. (BTW - if you are a subscriber, be sure to "Pass It On," to someone you work with!)
If you are a subscriber to this email, you will know of what I write; it has not been a good two-and-a half weeks for Emergency Services. The three main branches of EMS, Law Enforcement and the Fire Service, have all suffered Line-of-Duty-Deaths. Each of us has lost a comrade, a colleague, a brother and/or a sister. And in the midst of what should be a joyous time, we are forced to face the grim reality of loss.
Moreover, there is also a great body of evidence that comes out during this season, regarding how this time of the year is often very trying for some, especially though with behavioral health issues, and not for the general public alone. More recently, the American Fire Service has begun to focus on those same issues that affect many of our colleagues, not just now, but throughout the year. Sadly, the numbers do not lie. In 2017, we lost more colleagues in the fire service to suicide than to all the LODD's for that period. And now, the fire service has begun to develop a strong and positive Behavioral Health Initiative to help those members who are going through all types of turmoil and pain within their personal lives.
In my civilian life, working in Jewish synagogues and ritual life, I have to attend to too many families who have suffered a loss. Some whom I knew, other I did not, yet I cherished them just the same. As many of our Chief's and Commissioners know, it is not easy to deal with a bereaved family. It takes a strong mix of compassion, empathy, understanding and an inner "steeling of the gut," as one chief put it. We do so and we demonstrate that we are there for them and will try to guide them down this difficult path.
Let us remember all those we have lost, have loved, have worked with, have joked with, have dined with. And let us reach out to those around us to make sure that they are doing well and not masking their inner pain with a fake smile. "Tis the season. God bless us all.
Steve Greene is the president of 5-Alarm Task Force Corp., a 501 (c) (3), non-profit company and the Creator/Host of the "5-Alarm Task Force" podcast.