Book excerpt: 'Surviving the Firehouse'

"You will be judged, not by your great God-given skills, or intelligence, but by your attitude"

By Mauro Porcelli

The next advice is true for most jobs, but especially true for firefighters: Attitude is first and foremost. You will be judged, not by your great God-given skills, or intelligence, but by your attitude. Nothing is worse from a new firefighter than dealing with a bad attitude. Nothing will get you into trouble faster, in school or work, than a bad attitude, or the belief that your co-workers, the department, or the world owes you something. Nobody owes you squat! You came to the department seeking a job; they did not seek you. You knew the pay before you started. You knew how busy you would be. You knew the benefits and the dangers of the job before you applied. If the fire department owes you anything, it’s the best training and equipment available. This is what they promised you when you got hired (Let your union fight to improve the benefits. More about that in a later chapter).

An employee with a bad attitude is a cancer or poison to the crew and department. Its damage spreads and creates an environment that is difficult to work in.

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This is especially true in smaller departments and single company houses. Any officer will tell you that 80 percent of the job deals with personnel issues, and the remaining 20 percent actually deals with emergency calls. Most employees are reprimanded and terminated, not for lack of job performance, but for a bad attitude. Don’t be that person.

We all have good and bad days; that’s human nature. An individual will usually be marked as having a bad attitude if it’s habitual. This is the guy who comes to work every day with a chip on his shoulder. He never wants to train, regularly argues with his officer, drains everyone’s energy, and, in general, is high maintenance. Unfortunately, these people are not few and far between; they are quite common in every firehouse.

My best advice to you is to avoid these people at all costs. Their venom is contagious, and they want victims to come to their side. Worst of all, if you are the new guy, you really don’t know any better. It is very easy for these people to taint you and inflict their poison on to you. Stay out of trouble by avoiding the bad attitude-don’t bring it to the firehouse and avoid it when it’s in the room.

“You might ask, how do I avoid it when someone around me has a bad attitude?" My best advice, when you are new, you need to realize that you do not have an opinion- none, zilch. Don’t even attempt to give one.

 If someone asks you what you think on any subject-- the union, administration or anything-- your response, with a humble smile, needs to be, “I’m just happy to be here.” That’s it! You’re off the hook and everybody will think you’re easy going, someone who likes to keep his mouth shut. If you keep getting pressed on an issue, just respond, “Hey, I’m the new guy. I really don’t know much about that subject.” Once again, you’re off the hook and won’t get pinned as the new guy that knows everything. Just sit back, keep your mouth shut, and listen. Trust me, you will be amazed at the stupidity that spews from some people’s mouths. Makes one wonder how they got through life.

Too often, I would listen to these people in utter disbelief. Silently, I would wonder to myself, “My god, this guy is so wrong, so misinformed, so stupid, that he actually and truly believes himself!” On one occasion, I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to hold back but no longer could. I had to say something, like “Hey, Pauley, you’re a complete freaking idiot. You have no idea what you are talking about, none!” “Did you make this stuff up, or are you just that freaking stupid?” Then it began. Major “F” bombs flew back and forth. World War III began. Pauley continued to run his mouth and wouldn’t admit that he truly was an idiot. Meanwhile, some of the guys jumped on the band wagon with their stupid crap. Before we knew it, it was dinner time where the argument intensified. Pauley continued to make himself look more and more stupid, while Joey D and Ricky P came in a close second. These kinds of open warfare happen more than I’d like to admit, but it was fun and comical. Best advice about handling these situations came from my friend and mentor, Chief Wayne Futch (Ret) who said, “Son, there is no sense of arguing with an idiot in front of an audience, because after a while, the people standing around won’t know who the idiot is.” Best advice he ever gave.

About the Author

Mauro Porcelli is a retired City of Orlando firefighter/paramedic with 25 years of fire service experience.


Surviving the Firehouse
© 2018 by Mauro Porcelli
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