Punching Clocks

Keeping perspective and working hard when on the clock

Everyone joins the fire service for their own reason, but once you earn the right to punch into work in a fire department, you only have one reason for being there—them. By “them” I’m referring to the citizenry who pay taxes to staff and equip your fire department; spend money on recruitment and training recruit firefighters for the opportunity to serve; and provide you with a good salary, benefits, and—hopefully—a pension. Don’t take this as a righteous and condescending point of view; rather, take this as a reminder that there exists a requirement to meet expectations of those who put you in the seat you’re riding in for the day.


I’ll spare you platitudes about the types of motivated or unmotivated firefighters you’ll encounter on the job, but I won’t spare you perspective and ethos. It’s easy to punch in to work, do the requisite cleaning and maintenance, and hopefully take in some fires; however, it’s those who truly understand the importance of the fire department’s role in the community, its governmental construct and regulations, and expected (anticipated) ethos by its citizens who are the reason the fire department is viewed as a noble calling. It’s not exactly who is doing it but whether they are doing it. I’m referring to properly minding the store and making sure you’re building it, not destroying it. Fire departments are easy to run into the ground; there’re myriad ways this happens, but it should never be because of apathy in administration or operations. These are what our elected officials and taxpayers really care about in the fire department. They don’t want to see misfortunes, bad actors, and morale issues in the paper. They shouldn’t have to deal with what our admins should be. So, let’s look at this month’s issue to see exactly how to mind the store after punching in.

We start with day one in the fire service with the oath. Don’t worry, I’m not about to get cheesy here, but Frank Ricci and David Shestokas delve into what’s in the oath and why it entails more than just your entry into the fire academy—it’s your entry into being a sworn servant of the Constitution. Greg Jakubowski brings us a compelling interview of two very important individuals in the fire service with different stories but one related reason: the risk. Greg interviews Jim Lee Jr., the FDNY’s most recent James Gordon Bennett winner, and Cathy Hedrick, a surviving mother of a firefighter killed in the line of duty, to discuss and relate acceptable risk based on the situation at hand. Don’t skip this article, as it provides perhaps the best perspective that I have read in a long time regarding what you owe the risk that comes with this job.

Now that you’ve had a dose of perspective and your requirement to uphold the Constitution included in your oath, it’s time to look at who’s running the place. Seth Barker had a dose of perspective after attending a health and wellness seminar regarding what the “right things” are in the fire department. These are the projects that have not been addressed because of the amount of work that goes into their outcomes. Seth doesn’t think that’s the “right thing,” and neither should you. You’ve punched in and are now on the clock. I think Seth will agree with me that it’s time to put in the work—for the community. Now that you’re ready to work, it’s time to build a team. In his Barn Boss Leadership column, Brian Ward brings you the four components of building a productive team and how each keeps the organization moving forward.

Building a team also means ensuring that the right players accept the jobs that are needed, like the incident safety officer (ISO). Rich Marinucci writes on who should be selecting the individuals for this crucial role on the fireground. It can’t be the person who just punches in; it must be someone who is willing to do the work that goes with it and make the call when it’s needed.

Finally, Dennis Rubin puts it all together by telling us to take the time for the 360. There’s so much to see, and miss, during the 360 that it requires the attention and correlation to what you have in front of you. Don’t short those coming to your fire by not giving them the external and internal perspective of what you’re sending them into. Take the time to make the time by doing the walk-around.

As we head into the warmer months and our minds dwell on the summer vacations and the workload increase that comes with them, remember to keep the perspective in the forefront of your mind and your ethos. You are here for the community, and they expect you to be. Anyone can punch into work, but not everyone is willing to dig in and do what’s necessary. Sometimes, this means risking it all, and other times it means putting the risk in check so that it won’t do more harm than good in the long run. You’ll know the difference, and so will those in your charge.

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