It was just another day, well not really. It was one of my first as a “probie” on the Hudson, NH fire department. Called to a barn fire, I was assigned as the third member of an interior attack team. Our assignment was to advance on the fire in the hayloft. Tasked to the bottom of the ladder as nozzle man and the Deputy advancing on the fire, my job was to feed hose as needed and respond to calls for assistance, but specifically to be there at the bottom of the ladder.
Well timing is everything. At one point, more line was needed and I could not pull it through a doorway some 35 or so feet away. Thinking (a big mistake for a “probie”) that I should go pull more hose, I left my ladder position and went out the door to pull more hose, just as the Deputy came to the top of the ladder looking for me. Of course, I wasn’t there; and of course, he couldn’t see me as I was just outside the doorway; and of course I was now in big trouble.
Upon returning to the station, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that by leaving my assigned post I had lost the Deputy’s confidence as a reliable and trusted firefighter. Ouch! Not exactly the inspiring words a candidate wants to hear from a Deputy Chief (also the son of the Fire Chief) who will have veto power over you as a candidate for full membership. I am sure this incident cost me an additional six months as a “probie”.
While only my pride and ego suffered, the potential consequences of my actions could have significantly jeopardized the safety of my fellow firefighters. Team members rely on each other to be where they are supposed to be, doing what they supposed to do, and, above all, communicating with each other. Clearly, I left my assigned post, failed to communicate, and created a situation that could have put my teammates at risk.
I can’t remember how many times I have had the same discussion with young, energetic, recruits striving to impress and earn their place as firefighters. We are the only ones looking out for each other. Communication and teamwork are the glue that keeps us safe. If at the end of the day, we are all going home, failure to meet these needs is not an option. The consequences of my “lesson learned” were minor, but now learned, stayed with me throughout my career.
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In 1972 Chief Terry Dun (Ret) joined the Hudson NH Volunteer Fire Department. After moving to Shelburne, MA in 1974, he joined the Shelburne Volunteer Department, retiring as Chief in 2011. Chief Dun serves as a Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Northwest Mass Incident Management Team and currently serves as the Team’s Deputy Leader. Chief Dun remains a member of the Western Mass Homeland Security Council’s Interoperable Communications committee and has actively pursued the development of a robust public safety communications capability in Western Mass.