This winter I have idly sat by as firefighters continue to use the weather as a pathetic excuse to sit inside and table talk issues instead of pushing their limits of comfort and training outside. Weather isn’t something that waits while we have a cup of hot coco in our hands. We respond to calls in every weather imaginable, and we cannot pretend to be prepared if we only train when the sun is out and the snow has stopped falling. It’s common to hear others say, “it’s too cold outside” or “tomorrow is supposed to be warmer lets hold off till then”. What is it that we are really saying when we complain about it being too cold outside? It’s no more than an easy excuse that prevents us from doing the job that we say we love so much. The slight discomfort you’re going to experience is preventing you from becoming fully prepared for that next call in inclement weather. We might as well declare that it’s more important for us to stay warm for the next hour then knowing we will be able to respond in anything mother nature throws our way.
Last month, our crew just finished waxing our extension ladders on the first due rig. The satisfied feeling of a freshly waxed ladder was all the temptation I needed to do some ladder drills. I glance outside at the Colorado flag as it whips violently back and forth and am instantly met with hesitation from the crew as they object due to the wind. “If the ladder falls it could hurt someone” (immediately pull the safety card, there is no argument against firefighter safety) or it could bend the beam and put it out of service (another easy card to pull, first due equipment is our highest priority).
Is this what we are going to say on a real call? Of course not. We’ll go out and do our job as we normally do, but only now, during this real call, I am not proficient at throwing this ladder in the wind. What are my chances of hurting someone now? Would you rather have the ladder fall during training or on a call when someone’s life depends on it? Do we REALLY need to put someone’s life on the line to justify if it was worth taking a few minutes to throw the ladder in the wind?
Even if I never have to throw a ladder in extreme conditions, I can practice and be prepared for anything which only makes throwing the ladder on calm days an easier task. A great example I can give of this is from a class I took by Lt. Ray McCormack with FDNY last month. He said if you constantly train on the 2 ½ how easy will it be to use the 1 ¾ line. Pushing ourselves is part of our job. If that sentence makes you feel nervous, you’re in the wrong profession. Ray made a good point that all of us as professionals need to live by. Make your training hard, make it in all types of weather and all situations, and then when calls do come, you will be more than prepared.
What I’m trying to get at here is, push your limits when given the chance. Test yourself. Experience the worst case scenarios before they happen so when it is real, you’re ready. Pull hose in the snow till your regulator freezes and learn how to trouble shoot it, throw ladders in the wind, practice vertical vent till it’s to hard to run a chain saw because your fingers are so cold. Do you know if the fan moves when the concrete is covered in ice? Next time you’re glad you aren’t outside, go outside and train. You tell me what’s more important, feeling comfortable or knowing you are prepared for anything.