The Little Things

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If you spend any time at a fire house, you will undoubtedly hear older firefighters say "It's the little things that matter." They talk about the past and tell stories about tedious tasks (which many new school guys would call “busy work”) with reverence. They talk about detailing brass, scrubbing with toothbrushes, and washing the trucks after every run. They know that every task they complete, no matter how big or small is a reflection of them as a firefighter.Completing even the most menial tasks with an eye for detail is about more than ‘busy work’. It is a matter of pride . Your attitude towards the job starts with how you clean and how much attention you pay to the details.

You may be asking yourself why a training company would choose to talk about this topic. The answer is simple: ours is a job where the little things matter.  If you take pride in performing small tasks that no one will ever notice, then you’ll sure as hell have pride in making yourself a better firefighter.  Some will argue that paying attention to detail while cleaning is all about public perception, but most citizens will never know if the truck is waxed, the bay floors are clean, or the toilets are spotless. The guys who go the extra mile do it because they care. Those guys are usually the most positive guys on the crew. They're the unofficial leaders of the station, the person you turn to for advice. They aren’t content with average performance, and they continually strive to be better at their craft. That’s the guy you want by your side when the shit hits the fan.

If you don’t pay attention to the little things during house duties, then you’re not going to pay attention to the little things during training. You may know to stick the fork end of the halligan in the door and hit the adz with a flat head, but you can do that all day and not force the door. If you do the little things (shock, gap, set, & force), then the door will be forced efficiently.  So let’s start paying attention to the little things that people don’t notice. Clean the corners of the walls, pick up that scrap of paper, wipe the boot scuff off the floor.  If you start doing this, you will notice an attention to detail in all aspects of the job. You’ll be amazed at how these small changes impact your overall performance.

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The fire service was built by people who knew that taking pride in the little things developed character and reinforced positive habits in all aspects of the job. They are the reason why we are one of the most trusted professions in the world. Unfortunately, we’ve lost our way; the fire service has forgotten that it's the little things that matter. We don’t spend the time or effort to make sure the little things are done. To outsiders or to those who believe these tasks are “busy work”, this may not seem like a big deal. They'll argue that "there are more important things to do" or that even though we missed the details, "at least we got it done." This is unacceptable behavior that has a domino effect on everything else we do. If you ignore the details during cleaning, that attitude will carry over towards other things you perceive as mundane.  The fire service is stressing the “big picture” recently and that’s okay. We understand that we need to be able to see the forest for the trees. But let’s not forgot that there would be no forest at all without those individual trees. It’s the little things that provide a foundation for the ‘big picture.’ Without that solid foundation, everything comes crashing down