What to do about the guy we make 'sick'

For firefighters, situational awareness extends beyond the fireground and into the public sphere

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel examines one grumpy neighbor's Internet video and considers what we can do to mitigate these situations.

We talk a lot about situational awareness (SA) in the fire and emergency services, usually in terms of incident scene operations. As this story demonstrates, however, we can also think about SA as we consider how we — as individuals, companies, crews, stations and departments — move around within the broader political, social and economic sphere of our communities.

While we, as firefighters, may not agree with this resident's perspective, it's important that we at least recognize, if not understand, his position.

It's fantastic that these firefighters are out training on a winter day, and I'm not familiar with the area so I don't know if there's another place they can safely perform these evolutions. I also believe it's critical to train in multiple locations so we can learn to effectively perform essential skills anytime, anywhere and under any conditions.

That said, clearly this particular location, at least from one neighbor's standpoint, was unsuitable. Did he ask the crew to move? We don't know. Should he have asked them to move before publicly lambasting them on an Internet video? That would certainly be nice, but I'm not sure we can, or should, always expect such courteous behavior from those we serve.

So the real question for all of us is two-fold: what would you have done in this situation if the resident had asked you to move; and what would you do now to mitigate the potentially negative consequences on public opinion if this was your crew or department?

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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