The Question that Kept Me Up at Night

Last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Kevin Sofen for an upcoming podcast on Smart Firefighting. It was an enjoyable interview and Kevin was a great host. He kept the conversation rolling and had some great questions. His podcast focuses on how technology can be used in the fire service and he was very intrigued about Community Risk Reduction. We have talked about the Technology behind my Virtual CRR program, and with the current state of affairs, the Fire Service needs ways to reach out to their community virtually more now than ever. I didn’t really think much of the interview until that night. The last question he asked me was, “What Keeps You Up at Night?” For some reason, that question was keeping me up that night.

Photo by Martin Sattler on Unsplash

Current Events

Like the majority of you, the last week became a blur of meetings, conference calls, planning sessions, and research related to COVID-19 and how my department would be responding and preparing for it. Being a Community Risk Reduction guy, this was where I wanted to be. Asking questions and finding solutions to how to reduce the risk to our community. The answer I gave to that question on the podcast was heavily influenced by these current events. I’m not sure the answer I gave was the most accurate one. I think current events played into my answer a little too much. Which is why I think I’ve pondered on this so much. Once the podcast is released, I will put a link to it here.

Alone with My Thoughts

Once I was finally alone with my thoughts in bed that night though, his question kept entering my mind. “What Keeps You Up at Night?” Honestly, department related stuff rarely keeps me up at night. Business related things do from time to time. Sometimes my creative side kicks in for the business at night and I just have to get up and get working on it. But, I generally don’t dwell on department related things. “Fires go out,” “We can and will always improve,” “Personnel problems will still be there in the morning” etc. This question intrigued me though and made me think very deeply for the last week. Every night, this was the question that I stayed up pondering. “What Keeps Me Up at Night?”

What Keeps Me Up at Night?

The answer came to me while I was mowing the lawn today. I have a ridding lawn mower I inherited from my grandfather a few years ago after his passing. The lawn really isn’t big enough to necessitate a riding mower, but it has proven to be a good thinking opportunity for me. My grandfather was a scientist and maybe some of his deep thinking gets channeled to me through his lawnmower. As I was mowing, Kevin’s question came into my head and my answer came soon after. “What if we lost the trust of our community?”

What if we Lost the Trust of our Community?

This answer to my question hit me like a brick wall. The fire service has to be one of the most trusted, if not the most trusted, organization there is. Everything we do requires our community’s trust. Parents entrust us with their children on their absolute worst day, without even giving it a second thought. People welcome us into their homes and businesses without a thought that we might have ulterior motives. Even when tragedy happens, and things go very bad, we are still applauded for doing the absolute best we could. This trust has been earned and what if it all went away?

Why Would Trust Go Away?

Why would we loose this trust that has been bestowed upon us by our community? The only answer I could come up with is Pride and Selfishness. I wrote an article on Pride a little while ago entitled, “The Number One Issue Holding Back the Fire Service. Pride.” I went back and reread that article and was reminded of why I wrote it. Pride can be a very good thing, but it can also be a very bad thing. One of the definitions of Pride from the Oxford Dictionary is listed in that article, “The quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.” If we found ourselves with this kind of Pride, we can see how selfishness wouldn’t be too far behind.

If as a culture we began to feel more important or better than those we serve, could we lose the trust of our community? Do we sometimes think we are more important or better than others? This was a hard question for me to honestly look at. It might be a bad example, but it was one that I thought about, again, because of the current events we are all facing. Some of the “big box” stores are offering “public servants” the opportunity to shop before the stores open to the public. These signs of generosity are very meaningful and appreciated. Many are working very long hours and still need to get some necessities. The problem is, I heard, on more than one occasion, something to the effect of, “I wonder how long this will last until someone screws it up?”

I Wonder How Long Until Someone Screws it Up

Do I think we will lose the trust of our community? I don’t, but what a tragedy it would be if we did. I hope that thought scares us all and keeps us awake at night.The example above may be silly and minor, but for me to hear that comment multiple times must mean that some of us are afraid that a small portion of our profession will be prideful and selfish. Are there other areas where we are prideful and selfish? Could these lead to a lack of trust from our community? Community Risk Reduction will keep us connected to our community. When we understand the risks to our community, we look for ways to serve them and reduce their risk.

I challenge us all to think about “Why” we do the things we do. Do we do it to serve our community or do we have ulterior motives? If we continue to think about the “Why,” it will be less likely we will ever be confronted with this scenario. Why don’t I think we will lose the trust of our community? Because, the vast majority of firefighters are good, hardworking, community members that when push comes to shove, will sacrifice for others. We are Proud (the good kind of proud) servants of our community. COVID-19 will be one more opportunity to show our community why they trust us!

Brent Faulkner MAM, FO is the CEO and Founder of Virtual CRR Inc. He has 23 years of experience in the fire service and is currently a Battalion Chief for a Municipal Fire Department in Southern California. During this time, he has responded to numerous emergency situations including structure fires, wildland fires, hazardous materials responses, emergency medical situations, and numerous types of rescues. In addition, he has served on a Type 1 Hazardous Materials Response Team for 17 years.
Brent had a defining moment in his career which, as a result, lead him to create Virtual CRR and his passion for Community Risk Reduction. He led a team in Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) at a recognized Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Terrorism Fusion Center. This team was responsible for increasing the safety of critical infrastructure as it relates to terrorism, general security, and natural disasters. He has a Master’s Degree in Management (MAM), a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Studies (BA), an Associate’s Degree (AS) in Hazardous Materials Response, and another in Fire Science.