Monday, March 8, 2010

Helitack Videos

I am sad to say... the video's that had been posted needed to be removed. Unfortunately, some of the comments being received from the videos reflected a portion of the public that felt as if the government employees were waisting tax paying dollars. I can understand how a person might have that opinion after watching the videos, however I tend to disagree. What we do in the Wildland Firefighting community is not only dangerous but demanding. Young men and women work 16 hour days only to return to a tent and a sleeping bag for rest. Often times we are sleeping in a camp where generators and lights keep you up for hours beyond retiring to bed and wake you up hours before you need to be up. Most people run on 5-6 hours of sleep each night, only to return to a very tough and demanding job the next day. If you have ever managed a crew like this, you know how difficult it is to keep the moral of the crew at an acceptable level. I would be the first to say that we represent the Government and must act accordingly... I would also say that the public should understand that the job is fraught with long hours for mediocre pay and plenty of discomfort and risk. To allow a crew to enjoy a moment or two of silly antics is a small substitute for all that our firefighters do on a daily basis.

Perhaps I am critical in sharing my opinion... however, here I go! Show me a professional who has not left work physically or mentally a few minutes early, or someone who has not taken a pen or pencil from the office. Show me a person who has not jumped on the company computer to take care of personal chores or look at something totally unrelated to their job. Show me the person who hasn't stopped by a store while running a company errand, or arrived at work a few minutes late. I believe that most everyone, with very few exceptions, have found themselves doing something that could be considered unproductive, or down right theft of property (be it time or money). Wouldn't that make most of those who point the finger at a group of young men and claim, "they are waisting government time" hypocritical?

Studies have shown that happy employees are harder workers... perhaps allowing them the opportunity to film a few moments during work time is the inappropriate thing to do, but I would ask what is appropriate? Is it the times on a Helibase where upper management sits around telling stories of heroic actions that they took in the past, despite those "war stories" being unrelated to the task at hand? Is it the times during a meeting when employees complain about policy and management for what turns into hours? Is it the extra long lunch that was taken in order to drop a letter by the post office, or enjoy the company of a friend that you haven't seen in a very long time? I could point out hours of waste that I have seen within the Government... and it isn't just the Government. I am sure anyone reading this could share moments of observed time that was wasted at their offices or that they have seen doing errands on a daily basis.

I support the job that our firefighters do... I support the idea that they are often placed in situations where time is wasted, and it is not due to their actions. I know that as Government employees we represent something beyond ourselves, and must act with a level of integrity. However, why is it we can't support a moment of jovial fun that allowed everyone watching to laugh for a moment before going back to the hard, demanding, and dangerous work that they were doing? As a manager of a group of highly trained professionals who struggle at times to maintain a level of moral, I think it is the little things we do that make the difference for our people. I like to look at it in this way... I demand a high level of action and accomplishment from my people. So when the moment arises, where productivity won't be hurt and the consequences of action are minuscule, why not let your employees relax! Get off of their backs, if only for a moment or two, and let them enjoy what they do. In the end they will work harder, smarter, and longer for you when they are asked to do so.

Food for thought!


Anonymous said...

Often I wonder what these easily-offended members of the public expect for ~$12/hr.

I think one of the biggest problems in wildland fire is that the public assume (and they are never, ever informed otherwise) that wildland firefighters are paid a living professional wage and reasonable benefits for their work. I think if people knew their firefighters were making ~12/hr with no health insurance perhaps they'd understand why most of them are transient youngsters looking for some fun and adventure as opposed to really hardened and consistently serious professionals.

A Navy Seal can leave that work and forever claim some status. What do you get after a season as a HECM?...nothing. With that in mind, how could anybody begrudge some young people the longstanding tradition of sneaking some fun out of such a brutal line of work.

Don't give into those complainers. Have fun, post videos of it, fly safe and make some memories. Smart, creative, safe firefighters are leaving the game left and right because without fun it's just another $12/hr deadend job.

The public needs to start understanding that they get what they pay for and they always will. If you rely on smart, creative, strong firefighters you'd better take care of them either by making the job fun or by paying them well.

John said...

Having been a Firefighter since 1957, coming up through the ranks to Assistant Chief for 3 years, Chief for 12, Assistanat Chief for 2 more (by choice), & still on duty, a driver/pump operator for 2 FDs I know the hard work of firefighting. Have the 4' high "buffalo grass" explode into flame right alongside you or behind & completely surround you is not fun. The air seems to disappear for a few seconds.

Thanbks for the info & Good Luck !