For many or perhaps all of you reading this, you made being part of the Fire Service your career. Career in the above reference does not mean in a full time career department. It means you dedicated yourself to a cause bigger than yourself to serve the people in a community where you live, neighboring communities or you commuted to.
We live in a time when many people today are looking for immediate gratification, someone to thank them or tell them what a great job they did or are doing. Those in the Fire Service know all too well that those kind of accolades are few and far between. Why? It is just part of the job. Do it well and lives are saved, property protected, and you return after an event with everyone from your fire house safe.
I was fortunate to serve on a career department in their Fire Prevention Bureau. I was there for 17 plus years. I held the title of Fire Marshal. Over my career, I interacted with many people inside and outside the Fire Service. I was given the opportunity to help ensure life safety requirements at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake. I have spoken to state legislative bodies to help bring about change to building and fire codes. I made educational presentations at conferences and sat on national technical code committees. I helped my peers get involved on national committees to strengthen their voice on needed change for the Fire Service and Fire Prevention. Perhaps most rewarding, was speaking to school age children and parents in the communities I served about good fire prevention practices and seeing how engaged they were.
So what is my Legacy? I left proud knowing that every building I was ever involved with, no firefighter was ever injured or killed. I was able to help educate my peers through informative discussion and sometimes arguments on the need to push through some very difficult code changes. I did not achieve everything I postured for but a little gain is better than no gain. I watched my peers take leadership roles in state and national organizations. They continue to advance a cause of making buildings in their communities and nationally safer for those that occupy them and the responders that must enter them under adverse conditions. I made some life time friends in my journey and experience things I never dreamed I would.
My Legacy goes without fanfare and accolades. There are no awards for doing the right thing in the fire service. As time marches on, you become the name of someone who was and for new members, who are you talking about. There was no line of people then or today that want to thank me for what I did or tried to do. Again, doing the right thing needs to be its own reward.
To all of you reading this, know that if you chose the Fire Service as a career you did so with the understanding you would be serving a cause bigger than yourself. You chose a career that you may never know the people you help and they will likely never know your name. If you are lucky enough to be involved in Fire Prevention, every life safety message you help spread through your community schools or events has an unmeasurable positive impact. Try to imagine how many young people and adults that you have touched by your words are carrying that message to their kids or grandkids today?
The lives you saved will never be counted because statistics are based on what went wrong not what went right. The reduction in responses by your department in your community will never be directly attributed to actions you took or the fire prevention message you spread. You may even be tested by those around you asking if you are trying to eliminate their jobs. Because many times the best argument a community has for reducing budgets is number of responses. If you do/did the best you can/could every day, you are making a positive impact. Doing the right thing is something only you can measure and feel good about. Don’t wait for a pat on the back or the great job speech because it will likely never happen. I shared some very simple thoughts on my legacy to help some of you start to frame yours.
The best analogy I have is, a small rock thrown into a body of water. Even the smallest rock can generate many ripples. Be that rock, let your actions and message ripple through everyone you serve with and those you help protect.