Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tactical Safety: You Have Some Nerve!

By Ray McCormack

I hope you have some nerve, not to be obnoxious, but to be aggressive. Firefighting is about nerve in a lot of respects. Some firefighters have nerves of steel, whether it is making decisions or a tough push. You need some nerve just to deal with the various incident types we face. Do you have the nerve to stand up for what is right? Do you have enough nerve to concentrate on the mission at hand? Do you see nerve displayed by others both good and bad? We are in the nerve business, and without some nerve you could be passed by, regret a lost opportunity, and be fooled.

Bluster and bravado are often spoken in coded language such as, “I’ve been crawling down hallways.’’ When you hear people describing themselves in such terms, chances are they have not done much hallway crawling at all. What is usually the case is the fact that they feel the need to identify with those who have. They have some nerve!

“Firefighter makes daring rescue!” Dare is measured differently in firefighting circles then by the civilian definition. When a firefighter is recognized by their peers, and their fellow firefighters actually talk about the rescue in glowing terms, then we truly have high praise. That rescue took some nerve!

Utilizing teachings from questionable sources and personalities, with limited depth and or experience, may be the wave of the future, but not yet. When you want to learn about this craft, find an instructional source that checks out. Learn the important lessons: firefighting is real, it is difficult, and it takes many intellectual skill sets; make sure you learn how to determine what should stick from what is ‘throwaway.’ Remember, firefighting takes nerve.

Tired of wondering how your beloved fire service could think certain things (were) a good idea? You need to get involved so the next change does not surprise you. Wondering what or who is driving these fire service agendas? It could be you if you take the time to research the organizations and their platforms. Think about using some of your precious in-between call time to get the information you need to place your ideas on the next steering committee. He has some nerve getting involved!

Becoming an excellent firefighter takes some nerve. Firefighters who search for excellence unfortunately are often taken to task by others for their intense interest in our craft. To those that aspire to become great through training and self improvement - and participation - it is a long steady climb. The five-year-wonder is only a wonder if handled correctly. The need for self-acclaim is a poor outgrowth for some interested firefighters. Your knowledge that you have absorbed in one form or another is nothing new, it is how we all learn. When you discover a new twist, enjoy your level of participation, and remember that all ideas were new once and only time will tell if it lasts. Don’t let your knowledge get on others’ nerves.

Use your nerve to stay tactically safe.

Next Tactical Safety – Emotionally Charged Lines


  1. Ray, thanks for all of the great "nerve" that you inject into these columns. We in the fire service battle to have enough nerve to not get lazy, ask and initiate meaningful training, present constructive debate and dialogue and to generally be engaged in the greatest job on the planet.
    Jason Hoevelmann

    I hope more find the "nerve" to heed your advice and that of other knowledgeable and experienced fire service leaders to remember our mission.

  2. Mr. Mcormack, your article resonated with me more than you know!! Something I like to ask the "junior guys" is rather they are a "Calendar fireman" or a "Firemans Fireman"??! Geneally speaking,it seems like the "joes" want all the accolades that can come with the job but dont want to break a sweat or do what it takes to earn those accolades!! Traditionally, anyone who has the courage to put themselves out there have the scars from all the arrows to show for it! Thank you sir for once again putting yourself out there with this article! It is truly appreciated!!
    Respectfully, Colin Kelley