Category Archives: Leadership & Motivation

Throw Ladders – Not Shade

Throw Ladders Not Shade

So we’ve been out of the social game for a pretty good clip but as we return to the terabyte trenches there is something we need to ask of our firefighting friends around the country. Can we all just “Throw Ladders, Not Shade”?
What does this mean exactly? In layman’s terms, stop being a dick. Stop being a keyboard commando. Stop bashing others. Stop adding criticism to the comment thread of others actions. Stop and ask yourself, did my comment add any value or was I just whipping out my ignorance and swinging it around to be Tommy Toughguy. It means talk is cheap so let your actions speak.
Why you ask? One word. Humility. Have some. Understand that you’re not perfect, understand that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, understand to look internally before externally lashing out, understand that even the best fireman have had stupid shit happen within camera range.
For those who read the good book you may note that on many occasions you are asked to stop being Dick’s to each other. John Chapter 8 for instance, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Translation – Don’t post something that makes you look like a condescending asshole because chances are, at some point in your life, you will trip in the front yard or wear your hood like an untrained rookie (That’s assuming you go inside a fire at all. Ever.) But even if the only dark, hot and scary place you’ve ever been is your grandmothers basement, have enough humility to realize this fact, and stop typing mean things on the computer located there.
In short – be nice. Be about the work, not about the lip. Lead with courage and kindness while you kick the red devil right in the teeth. Be positive. Don’t give into the peer pressure poison of negativity. If you see a situation turning sideways, don’t pile on, simply remind your peers to – “Throw Ladders, Not Shade”.
We’ve all been guilty of being a dick from time to time, but if we all have a little humility, together we can make the fire service internetsphere not such a scary place to be. Onward.

“The Detailman’s Guide” – A Crash Course to Crew Integrity

The Whirlwind. That’s what it can feel like to a fireman on the detail trail – walking into a strange firehouse, to integrate with a potentially unknown crew, riding an unfamiliar rig in an unknown neighborhood.  The culture, the characters, the climate, all feels…different.

The same can be true for the crew. Who is this detail guy? Do they know their job? Can we trust the reputation of their house? Who was their instructor at the academy? What did a dude that knows a dude that knows a dude hear about them? The list goes on and on, and unfortunately usually travels a negative path. The historical trend in the fire service is a detailman is a shit-bag until proven otherwise. Guilty until proven innocent.

The real truth is that success in this situation is a two way street. The detailed firefighter must have a desire to integrate effectively with the new crew and the crew must possess a desire to assist that firefighter in the process.

This is not an easy thing to ask of either side:

  • One must accept that there are things they might not know, and open themselves up for instruction which is sometimes viewed as incompetence (especially when developing new relationships).
  • The other must exercise empathy & humility in the educational process, understanding knowledge is there to be shared, not used as leverage to display dominance.

To further complicate the situation, the time to “onboard” a detailed firefighter is as close to assuming duty as possible. A working fire could strike within minutes of putting your gear on the rig, placing the firefighter in a very real, very dangerous “sink or swim” scenario.

So how do you take years of area specific operational nuances and crew camaraderie and cram it into the first 5 minutes of a shift? Good question.

While nothing can replace hours & hours of training, standard operating procedures and department wide practices, one potential tactic to quickly add context for the unfamiliar member is a “cheat sheet” or “quick reference guide”. While we are sure there are many different variations of such a document, we wanted to include an example of one created by the District of Columbia Truck Company 17, Platoon #4, (created by the members, it is not an official department document).

We are posting this document here for the first time only as a brainstorming reference for those who may wish to employ a similar tactic at their station &/or shift. It was created in 2016 and used by the shift at that time as initial reading material for a detailed firefighter prior to assuming duty. It did not replace hands on training once the shift started, but did shorten the learning curve and started the mutual conversation for growth.

Hopefully it can help other crews attempting to address similar issues as a jumping off point. Stay safe.

(Click the cover page below to view, download or print the PDF)

The Detailman's Guide - Truck 17 #4

Detailman's Guide - About

The Detailmans Guide to Truck 17 #4