How safe are we really? By Captain Jeffrey J. Schwering

Recently, I have been doing a lot of thinking, since returning from the FDIC.  We all know that can be a dangerous thing, but seriously Brothers and Sisters, in the Fire Service of today, “How safe are we really?”

We all know we can count on our Brothers and Sisters on the job, to cover our backs, but what about some of the people in this world, who are closest to us, who claim to be in our corner, come hell or high water.

The purpose of this article is to make all of us think about the many who swear by firefighters, but truth be known, the almighty dollar may be the driving force behind the shaking of our hands and the smiles we receive. Just to name a few  examples to examine, let me throw a couple out for your consideration, politicians, equipment salesman and the companies these folks represent in our industry, from Personal Protective Clothing, Breathing Apparatus, to Apparatus Manufacturers, and everything in between.

Politicians are our first stop, on this short little reading journey. We all have stories of politicians, both good and bad, some just horrible! Politicians are similar to firefighters, some get it, and some do not understand and never will. Politicians that get it are friends to the Fire Service to the end, just like true brothers. Those that are misinformed will be our best friends at elections and when an event occurs that they view as tragic, but we see as our jobs, no different from the misinformed firefighter, that is not a true brother!

Our next stop is the sales representatives that represent a variety of companies, selling products every Fire Department needs to do an effective job and do that job safely for our members and the civilians we to protect, everyday. In my humble Captain,’s opinion, a salesperson, can make or break the company or companies’ reputation in an instant.  At the FDIC, I met the good, the bad, and the truly ugly.  Many lines I had the “pleasure” of listening to were like listening to the politician at election time. If your department finds someone in sales that is trustworthy, you are among the lucky few. Pride, Honor, and Integrity are foundation of the American Fire Service. The majority of Firefighters understand this but, many salespersons and the companies they represent are lacking or missing the Integrity part. The products these companies sell are outstanding quality items, for the most part. The corporate decision makers truly worry me, as a Fire Officer.

This brings me to the title of this piece, “How safe are we really?” People wearing the nice suits, who assure us regularly that all is well, who have never crawled down a blackened hallway scare me! Brothers and Sisters, do your research on any item your department purchases. We must not accept freely what anyone is trying to sell, politician, sales representative, or company. We have to protect ourselves and assure ourselves of our own protection.

Be safe, we all have families to come home to. Take care of the member riding across from you, or in front of you. We are truly our Brothers Keeper!

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