The movement against freelancing is killing the fire service.
Before I get all sorts of angry comments or emails, let me clarify that I believe a firefighter acting as a lone wolf on the fire ground is dangerous, unacceptable, and should not be allowed at any time. The anti-freelancing movement started with good intentions and is a noble gesture. We began initiatives to limit firefighters acting as lone wolves to limit injuries and deaths. I stress that I am against reckless actions by unsupervised individuals. However, people are using the war against freelancing to have total control over firefighters and fire scenes. We have created a “mother may I” culture by forcing our firefighters to wait for orders and ask for permission. We are stunting professional growth by robbing firefighters of the ability to think for themselves.
When I came into the fire service, we all understood that certain tasks had to be accomplished. Whether they were around the station or on an emergency scene, these tasks were necessary in completing our jobs. We didn't wait to be told to complete these tasks, nor did we ask to do them; we just did them because we knew they had to be done. That has changed. We have gone to a “mother may I” thought process. No longer are we able to act on our own knowledge and experience. We are expected to ask or wait for orders from our officers or supervisors to perform even the smallest tasks or we will get labeled a “freelancer”. This term has become a four letter word because of the stigma that it carries. You get labeled reckless, dangerous, and not a team player. There are also possible disciplinary actions that may result from our “reckless” actions. All of this is making our officers expect that we run all ideas by them when we want to do something. This makes firefighters timid and afraid to rock the boat. Want to train? Ask the officer or you’ve gone rogue. Want to flow water? Ask the officer! Want to cut the power? Ask the officer. This culture of asking for permission is leading to a vacuum of knowledge, experience, and leadership in the fire service. If we always expect our firefighters to ask for permission, how can we expect them to make decisions for themselves? This has created firefighters that stand down, waiting to be told what to do instead of forward thinking and problem solving professionals. This may not seem like a big deal, but it will be when someone dies because the rookie was too worried to act because he might get labeled a freelancer.