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Dogma in the Fire Service

Dogma – A noun

Defined as a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.

“That’s the way we’ve always done it”

These are words we have all heard before. Whether it be true or not, right or wrong, old-school or new-school, is this the way the fire service deserves to be taught? Does anybody question the ideas or ways many tasks are derived? How do we know what is right, if it’s all we have ever known to live by? The answer is to think outside the box.

What are some topics or training exercises your organization has never touched on? Do we really know what is out there, if we don’t train on bettering ourselves for the worst possible outcomes? These are questions that will remain unanswered until the dogma is over. By reaching outside the box, we can better ourselves in more ways than one. One example of a dogma that I can think of is the way we sometimes unrealistically train. Whether it be financially unsound, or non-practical because “in all my years, we have never run that type of call before.” We are jacks of all trades, and hopefully masters in some. I have used that as fuel for my own passion for the fire service, as it has grown over the last 12 years of my life into what it is today.

Training deserves the right to be conducted in a professional, realistic manner that everybody can learn from. We deserve to be trained to the highest possible standards. Most importantly, our patients and victims deserve that we are trained in that same fashion. Is extrication training realistic if it is on a 5 year old car, which has been destroyed by water damage and has maybe one or two dents or dings? Is that really helping our foundations of vehicle extrication? Are our rookies getting the absolute most out of their scenario that day? In my eyes, they are not. They need to be popping doors off a car that have rolled several times, landed on its roof, and that have manikins that are entangled in metal, thrashed throughout the vehicle. Although gruesome to the layperson, this is what we need to prepare for. Good instructors/training officers remove the dogma, and broaden the horizons on what a training evolution should be comprised of, making the drill educational, yet keeping it within the boundaries so everyone can stay focused.

For those of us who provide patient care, we should strive to be the best. We need to make the best possible decisions in the worst possible times. We need to be able to count on our training as a back-up to what we’re thinking and doing. We should want to be “that guy” who is upside-down in a vehicle, intubating our “Trauma Alert” patient, and being able to stabilize their airway so extrication could ensue, all while staying within the “Golden Hour”. After all, we are here for the patient, right? We need to know that by training as realistic as possible, we can achieve goals that we would have never come close to if the dogma was left in place. We need to question those that make rules/SOPs/SOGs. By no means am I telling you to go to the firehouse tomorrow and run to the Chief’s office and demand he give you answers. What I am saying is that no decisions are made because “we HAVE to do it that way”, or “that’s the way we have always done it”. Knowing “why” that decision is made, is just as important as actually making the decision itself. Knowing what thoughts and tactics are running in his mind when the senior firefighter knows to get off the roof. Or why the company officer is deciding not to use stairway A for ventilation, because there are screaming victims running out the first floor door. Why do these people know what they’re doing? Because they trained for it. They trained for this day to come, and now they know why they are making these decisions. This type of training not only covers the “How’s”, but also the “Why’s”. Would your probie know they need to look under the smoke after rolling into a window from an aerial? If you don’t train in a smoke-filled atmosphere, we could only guess what the answer would be. (No, really. Guess…) I have heard some very off-the-wall answers when they don’t know what they’re talking about. I would bet the next time they are in that same situation they will know exactly what to do and, most importantly, “Why”?

All in all, this is not at all an advocation to bust down your administrator’s doors, and bash them. It’s just a way to open the eyes of the Jake in all of us, and help to think about removing ourselves from the dogma that we have always heard. Once it is no longer existent, we can train in a way that our profession is fundamentally comprised. We need to be trained for the unknown. What CAN be thrown at us, WILL be thrown at us in some point in our careers. It’s our job to be ready for it.

– The “Irons”

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