Do we place our entire trust in trust?
I don’t think so.Â Here is my take on it…
Trust is important in the Fire Service. In fact trust is important in any circumstance where it applies. In a workplace, a relationship, a partnership or family. But trust is no more important than many other attributes that should be present in these circumstances. In the fire service, trust is as important as courage, compassion, empathy, commitment and the dedication to serve and sacrifice. These attributes and many others form a skill-set. A skill-set that any good firefighter, or any decent person for that matter should posses.
As a firefighter or police officer or any similar demanding role, an individual may be called upon to draw from that skill-set, a particular skill (or attribute) required to deal with a particular situation. In fact many skills may be needed simultaneously and at a moments notice. And these occasions are not once in a lifetime occurrences. They happen every day. At emergency scenes. In the work-place. When managing people. When working with policy. When facing challenges of any kind no matter their origin.
In the fire service we stress the importance of these skills. We look for them when an individual is hired. We train them and provide them with the tools needed to be as successful as possible. We mentor them and evaluate their progress routinely to assure the best possible outcomes.
But there is one other thing we must do.
As important as any other component in a relationship. Whether at work or at home.
We must be willing to accept the fact that people might fail in their ability to apply a skill in the course doing what ever it is they may be required to do. We must recognize that we, people, are not perfect. We make mistakes. And when we do, hopefully we learn from them. We become stronger. We enhance our skills. And we do that with proper guidance and leadership within our work or family structure.
Perhaps unique in the fire service (but also present in other roles) is the bond that forms Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â between those in the profession. Firefighters view their fellow employees like family members. That bond is present between members of an Engine Company that works together each day. It is present between members of the entire organization. The same bond extends from one department to firefighters working in a different community. There is not a fire department or firefighter in the country, perhaps throughout much of the world that does not think about the sacrifice, or feel the pain or share an emotional thought with the firefighters in New York City each year on September 11th. This bond, this relationship is no different that what you have with your families if you are so blessed.
So what does this mean?
It means that when we care for one another we do so in all circumstances. We care when people we are connected with do great things and also when they make mistakes. In the fire service, as in our families, we do not abandon one another. We care for each other and support each other. And certainly, depending on the nature of the failure we recognize that there may be consequences. A firefighter or a family member may have to be punished. Determining punishment requires a full evaluation of the issue and an even greater evaluation of the person or persons involved. Doing so presents the best opportunity for a positive outcome. A changed behavior, an enhanced skill and a resolve to not have a particular failure be repeated. If this can be accomplished, it is what is best for the individual who has failed as well as the entire family or organization involved.
So yes, trust is important. One of many important attributes. An individual with absolute trust but lacking in other critical areas does not fit the profile of a solid firefighter, or caring family member, ready to fulfill the requirements of the important relationship that they are in.
Everything matters. Everyone matters.
About the author:
Mike Anton has served in the fire service for thirty four Â years, thirty three of those Â years were proudly serving the Wauwatosa Fire Department. Chief Anton has served in the ranks of Firefighter, Motor Pump Operator, Lieutenant, Â Battalion Chief, Assistant Chief and Interim Chief twice. Â Chief Anton is the proud father of five children and four grand childeren. Chief Anton now spends most of his retirement traveling and spending time with his family.