I have probably spoken before of complacency. Complacency is a subject that seems to surface repeatedly in our business, a business that requires constant vigilance. It strikes all of us at one point or another. The cure, sadly enough, seems to be getting stung. And in a further moment of unfortunate circumstance, on occasion the sting is accompanied by death, severe injury, or catastrophic loss.
And since we all understand that complacency in the fire service is a topic on which everyone is reminded to guard against, it happens routinely, and to the most unlikely of subjects. I myself have been shaken out of complacency, years ago, with a near miss, and vowed to never repeat it. But time after time, like water wearing away at a stone, repeated non-events lull us into the belief that the next one will just be one more in a long line of non-events. When the long shot pays off, it can be a doozy.
Just as we get complacent on alarms, the public sector fire service has become fat and happy in the belief that no one would dare upset our world by privatizing it, merging it, or re-sourcing it. We are firefighters! Everyone loves firefighters! No one would dare go against us. We are heroes, after all. Well, just read this article on FireRescue1.com. These issues, although we have been saying they were coming for years, are now upon us. If you don't believe it, look around. The public is sick of hearing about firefighters milking their pensions, taking questionable disability benefits, stealing from their organizations, and lighting fires. We are no longer pristine. We have permitted the scum bags to infiltrate our ranks. We are fair game.
Times are tough. People see us as having while they don't. If there is anything more energizing to the haters, it is the thought of "heroes" becoming the "anti-heroes". It is the foundation of expose and justice denied that calls for every Geraldo wannabe to man a video camera and find the next Watergate saga. If there is something delicious about failure, it is much more tasty when the shock of failure is accompanied by the role a trusted individual has in creating it.
Change is near on the horizon and while there are those of us shouting it from the rafters, it seems like there are many who continue to ignore the warnings. What you believe to be true today may very well be heresy tomorrow. If you fail to evolve, to get your stakeholders involved in your mission, or to understand the changing tide of support, you may well be clinging to the remains of what used to be while the rest go sailing down the road.
Just as we preach to our new firefighters that complacency kills, so should the vested leadership of our collective organizations be warned: complacency will be the demise of what you currently hold dear. You can appreciate change and master it, or let it master you. One way or another, it is on the way.