As you go through your career you learn a lot of things. You learn from training sessions, outside classes, and from a lot of experiences. As you learn these things you file them all away in your head and call upon them as they are needed.
This wealth of knowledge is there any time you need it, and you know these things backwards and forwards. The problem comes in when you take all this knowledge with you when you leave. There is no process in place that allows you to exchange this information with whomever you are replaced with. Unless you pass it on it all goes with you, kind of a shame to lose all that information.
Most of these bits of knowledge get talked about in informal situations. Some of the best advice passed around the fire station is the done in casual conversations at the kitchen table, or during vehicle maintenance.
Here are a few important things that I didn’t learn in a training session.
On my first day I got some of the best advice. Very simple, “Don’t get in trouble, because if you get in trouble I get in trouble, and then we all have a problem.” That piece of advice went a long way and you can apply it to a lot of situations.
At that time I was working on the ambulance and we were on our own a lot. Our supervisor wasn’t with us when we were out but he was still responsible. That same concept follows you through your entire career, no matter how high you may get in the command structure someone above you is going to have to answer if you make a mistake.
If you don’t work in the fire station you really will never understand the way we talk. Sometimes when you do something wrong you become the object of the firefighters’ jokes. I’ve been in that position several times in my career but one of my first times I got some good advice. “If they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.”
It didn’t mean much at the time but through the year it proved to be true. There are some firefighters that make mistakes and no one seems to care, others could do the same thing and get different treatment. It seems like they expect mistakes from some guys, but tease the ones they expect better from.
Driving an engine one day we were returned while enroute to a call. I pulled into a parking lot to turn around and head back to the station. “Don’t pull into a private parking lot unless you need to,” I was told. That made no sense at all to me, people turn around in parking lots all the time. I asked why and was told that if you hit something (like a sign) in a private parking lot it is a much bigger problem than if you hit a sign on a roadway.
That proved to be true throughout the years, and I have passed that information on to many people. Some don’t think it matters, but when they get to fill out an accident report they will understand. There is no reason for a big piece of fire apparatus to be in a small parking lot.
If you have some advice make sure you pass it on. You don’t have to pass it to someone younger, anyone is fine. Just make sure to not let it die, pass it on.