Believe it or not, it may actually get to be summer sometime this year, well maybe. Hopefully for those of you affected in large or small ways by the unusual weather patterns and flooding, you are able to recover. I think we should talk about retirement in this edition.
Although you might not be ready to “retire” just yet please continue to read as this isn’t just about what you think retirement is in the traditional sense. Let’s talk about traditional retirement first so we can get that out of the way. If you are ready to retire and you have things lined up so you can “fade” away in style then I say congratulations and I hope all is well. But, hey don’t forget when you go you are taking along a vast amount of experience and knowledge. Perhaps you could find a way to share that knowledge with those remaining in the fire service.
For those of us that are getting closer to traditional retirement there is still time to get your things in order so you can leave in style and still be able to live comfortably. Hopefully, by this point in your career you have made wise investments, lived life to its fullest and above all taken care of your health.
Now let’s get away from traditional retirement and talk a bit about other forms of retirement. This is the part that applies to every single one of us that is still engaged in the business whether it be volunteer, part-time, full-time, union or non-union. At some point during your career you have or will make or hear a comment about someone that has “retired” on the job. Simply put this would mean that whomever you are referring to is still actively employed and goes through the motions of doing their job, but in actuality they have already “checked” out and just don’t do much to contribute positively to the job.
If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to work with or even worse, work for someone that has reached this stage in their career, hang on, it will show up at some point. You know, common sense would dictate that after multiple years of doing the same job someone would have a tendency to “check” out a little in the twilight years of a career and maybe a case could be made that it was well deserved. Although this may be the case, what is the overall benefit for that new bright eyed, over excited, easily molded new recruit to be “mentored” by someone that has reached “check-out time.” It is likely that this new person is not going to receive the quality training and proper indoctrination and could lead to early dissatisfaction in the job and ultimately in the fire service losing yet another valuable and hard to come by volunteer or full-timer.
If you haven’t noticed the fire service is locked in a battle with the rest of society to gain and maintain members and to provide those members with all of the tools they need to be successful. If those we are able to pluck from the ranks of “normal” society are not given the reception, attention, training and support from day one it is likely they are not going to stick around and before long the “word” will get out about your agency and it will be even more difficult to gain members.
Training retirement is also a problem that we have to steer clear of. You know, when you have “been there and done that” so many times that you just decide nothing further is needed so you step back from training. Instead of stepping up and sharing your experiences and knowledge and supporting those following in your footsteps you pick a more laid back approach, doing nothing. This type of approach is not only harmful to the future generations of fire service personnel, but it is highly dangerous for you as an individual. When you stop actively engaging and let a disconnect take place you are likely setting yourself up for something ugly. Many injuries or worse take place when we let our guard down and just “retire” from what we know is proper and has kept you sharp all of these years.
Have you looked at yourself lately? Have you looked at your agency lately? Are either at or near some phase of retirement? If it isn’t the actual end of a career, traditional retirement, you owe it to yourself and to those you work with, not to say anything about those you have sworn to protect to get up off your, whatever you are sitting on, and get things moving. You aren’t retired just yet and this job is not one to hang out in, just to go through the motions. The motions here can kill you if you are not prepared. Have you noticed your agency hasn’t taken a positive step in years? If so it could be that your agency is nearing “retirement” if you do nothing to move it ahead and continue to do better work than those before you.
So you might ask, what can I do? To start with you can impart your knowledge and skills on those around you or if you are new to the business you can talk a little less about all the things you already didn’t know much about and become a big sponge and soak up every little bit of what is going on around you. Of course if you are that sponge you will have to figure out what parts to hang on to and what parts are silly old notions that need to be changed or maybe done away with. If you are a seasoned member of the fire service you might need to realize there may be a different way things can be done and you might actually have to embrace these ideas and make some changes in how you function.
The next step in not being retired is to get out and find the new trends in the business and learn them and become an expert in making them work. You and all those around you will be safer. For those of us that have been around a long time you might start to notice that some ideas and techniques that we used a billion years ago when we were just youngsters are making a comeback. Much like I see in the movie, song, automobile and other similar industries there is nothing really new in the fire service. Much of what we do, just like in those other industries are old tried and true techniques that were tweaked to death or maybe were just abandoned due to the service model our agencies took on.
I am not saying that everything we used to do was the greatest and best ideas, but I am saying that what our predecessors did must have had some validity or we would not still be in business today. The old ways often need some adjustments as we have discovered new information over the years. PPE and SCBA can help reduce your exposure to carcinogens and not just protect us from heat, who knew? We didn’t know back then, but we did know what we were doing was vital in getting our job done. So much like the PPE and SCBA we continue to build from what we did and adjust it to modern use. Because we don’t choose to retire and resign ourselves to things being the way they are we continue to enhance our profession and work toward an enhanced, efficient product for our citizens and ultimately a better place for us each to work.
Take a few minutes and assess where you are in your career and where your agency is. If you reluctantly realize you have “retired” on the job or your agency has come to a standstill perhaps you need to seek out ways of getting both back on track. Hunt out new dynamic training, push the envelope a bit further, seek out change, if it is for the better and do all you can do to make yourself and your agency the absolute definition of not being retired. Your renewed spark may just ignite a fire throughout your entire agency or maybe even the fire service as a whole. If you don’t give it some attention how will we ever know what could have been.
As always, if I can be of any assistance to you or your agency please contact me.