Simple Words

How many of you remember joining your local fire department? It was a time filled with pride and excitement. You waited all day at home for the pager to sound so that you could race to your car and get into the community to be of service. Each call was something that made you feel like a member of a group of like minded people who were there to help their fellow person. I still see people who feel that way and it is a wonderful thing. The new members bring to their departments that freshness, and that newness that we all had. The big question is “how do we keep our members feeling fresh and motivated” to give to their community, to be a part of the wonderful brotherhood called firefighters and medics? Community service in general is on the decline, so how can we as fire fighters turn this around. Can we be the role models for the next generation in the area of serving the community? What needs to change in our departments to keep that newness and excitement alive? What does each member need to feel appreciated, welcomed and important? Feeling like a key player goes a long way to make people feel appreciated? It is unrealistic to think that each member actually likes every other member but it is not impossible for each member to say - hi, how are you? Or - thanks for coming out to this call -- I appreciate your having my back today, -- great job -- etc. Most members know of a member who is feeling discouraged, underappreciated, or worn out. Each member can give their department the gift of reaching out to their fellow fire fighter and saying “I appreciate you”. Imagine if every member from the Chief on down, thanked other members daily. Can you imagine the impact this would have on our departments. People would remain engaged with their departments longer, responses would be up, recruitment would be easier. People would look at the departments as a place where everyone wants to be. Just imagine. The answer is in your hands, the hands of the members and the hands of the past and present leaders. We can make this happen -- one member at a time.

Here are some strategies that I think would be a welcomed change in some departments:

· Every department has members who have been there for a long time. Ask them to mentor your newer members. Provide them with some guidelines for doing that.

· Mentoring should be done in a positive and supportive way. Suggestions should be made in a private setting and using the utmost respect.

· Younger members should be instructed to accept the mentoring with respect. Youth is the energy of a department but experience is its backbone.

· Officers should model this behavior showing respect to the senior members.

· Tempers can get hot in a firehouse, people in leadership roles should at no time raise their voices to members. The member is there to support their department and follow the rules of the officers but they are adults and should be treated as such.

· Look around your department. You have a wealth of experience they are firefighters, medics, chaplains and ex chiefs. Some of these people work in paid positions as well as volunteering. Assist your department in meaningful sharing of information.

· Encourage your younger members to stay with the department. They are the future of your department. Listen to their concerns and treat them with understanding. Losing your young members can lead to a uncertain future for your department.

· Departments where all members treat each other with support and respect will benefit from seeing more support and respect.

· Although some departments have a lower volume of serious calls then others, treating each call as if is an opportunity for team building helps everyone and keeps people alert and prepared when a serious emergency presents itself.

· Remember the reasons you joined your department in the first place and enjoy the camaraderie.

These are easy things that we can all try. It doesn’t take more time out of your day. The simple Thank You – can make a difference.

Mr. William Mayo was elected our Second Deputy Chief Chaplain in April 2014. Bill has been active in the Plainview Fire Department for over 24 years and has served as the department’s secretary and a lieutenant for the rescue squad. He joined the Board of Directors of the NYSAFC, Inc. in 2010 and has been working diligently on our Facebook and web pages. He also serves as chaplain to the Nassau County Medical Reserve Corps and to the Nassau County Fire Council.