We do a lot of things that would give the normal guy off the street a pretty good scare. The things we are expected to do from time to time are actually pretty dangerous. There are a lot of people that will admit they would never be able to be a firefighter.
Our instincts tell us that going into a burning building or on the roof of a burning building is not a smart thing to do. We do a lot of things with no fear, but there are always a few things that show we still have those human fears.
Danger and fear are not always used interchangeably. Just because you are doing something dangerous doesn’t mean you will always be afraid.
When we train repeatedly on a dangerous activity we begin to understand what makes it dangerous. Going into a burning building seems dangerous at first, but when you learn about fire behavior you understand what happens when a building burns, things aren’t always as dangerous as it seems at first. Just like the guy that walks on a high wire, we get confidence as we practice in a controlled situation.
There are a few things that will still make our heart skip a beat. It doesn’t matter how confident you may be with your equipment and crew, but when you are in a smoke filled building and lose track of how you got in there, it is scary. Stairways, furniture, and deteriorating buildings can all add up to a firefighter getting lost in a building.
When we learn about structure fires, we are always told to remember how you got in the building, that way you can always get out if things go bad. We hold onto that concept to get rid of the fear that most people have about going in that building.
Once we get disoriented, that calmness is gone and we feel like the guy off the street. To find your way out of a building when you are disoriented, there are a few things you can do. If there is a hose, you can follow it out. If you find a window, you can break it and look to see where you are at. If you shine a beam of light from your flashlight up into the smoke, you can follow the direction of the smoke to find an opening in the building. That smoke is headed out of the building so use it and follow it out.
There aren’t many things as scary as taking a breath and having the face piece of your SCBA suck into your face. Hopefully you have had that feeling at a drill and not in real life. You suck that last bit of air out of the tank and that’s the end of the air. You are now in panic mode and heading for the exit as fast as you can. Nothing is more important than getting some fresh air.
Being tangled in wires or the remains of a mattress can also make you wonder why you got into this line of work.
Yes, we do get scared. When the things we learn to protect ourselves fail we are just like everyone else. We are confident because we have learned survival skills. When those techniques fail we lose our confidence.