How is your department handling respect issues with your 16 to 20-somethings? How does the entitlement generation learn to earn respect when so many think they are just entitled to it.

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mentoring - intentional mentors assigned to each younger member to 'guide' them and nurture their skills and attitude helps
One of the benefits of working for a career department that doesn't allow you to even apply until you're 19.  : )  Then with the way big city governments move(slow) you won't get hired until you're 20/21 if you're lucky.

Respect shouldn’t be automatic for those just walking in the firehouse any more than it should be for those already sitting in the recliner (he said from the recliner). Deeds not words are how respect should be gained.


I agree that many of the very young entering the fire service expect that respect and honor will get handed out to everybody who walks through the firehouse door like “participation ribbons” for school sports. As Heather said, you can’t expect them to understand or get better just by swatting them down, you also have to build them back up through mentoring and leading by example.

I believe that much of the culture of the group, the shift, the house and thus the whole of the fire service are lead by senior firefighters. If they send the message that the goal is to hang on until you’ve gained enough seniority to lay back, then no one should be surprised when a 21 year old decides that three years in is enough “seniority” to also lay back and watch the newbies push the broom.


On the other hand, if the shift shows that a REAL firefighter gets the job DONE not expecting the pat on the head and regardless of the years and the jobs that have already gone by, then the young gun is likely to get the hint.



Although I am a mere 23-year-old, I got into my volunteer department when I was 20-years-old. From that moment I was told, by officers and other members, to ALWAYS respect senior members, especially those who fall within the category of "older" members. I've always been a respectful person, and I have befriended many of the elder members. These men are full of wisdom and experience, and their stories are always insightful and full of meaning, as well as fun to listen to.


Even members within my age range, I'd always get off of a rig if I was the junior member and the rig was packed out. I did my time by doing the "little" chores and helping out more than usual with fundraisers. When at MVAs I'd drive the ambulance for transport to free up a first responder. It's all about learning the ropes.


Right now I can tell that our probationary members and our explorers don't know what it's like. Many have to be told to do something or to get off of a rig if a senior member wants to board and there's no room (and no other apparatus is leaving the station).


We have one explorer in particular that talks back, thinks he knows everything and is very pompous all around. He even ordered a blue light for his car and has PERSONALLY followed me while I was responding to the station as if he were a certified firefighter, too. He has been reprimanded by officers many-a-times and has a genuinely poor attitude.


I feel like all around, even for my generation, many lack respect for others in general. Not all, obviously - I, myself, as well as others I know still hold the ideology of respect sacred. But from what I've seen, from fights to catastrophic social events, respect is becoming a thing of the past in society as a whole, and it's creeping into the firehouse, too. I feel like in the firehouse it can at least be controlled more, as it's a paramilitary organization at least.

If your just starting out in the service, and don't know squat. Listen to your officers and senior members. In time you'll learn who is credible and who is not. Learn from them, and respect them. The "older" firefighters, I'm guessing the guys that have already paid their dues and come around for the commrodery of the house, but not respond. They have probably fought more fires than you will see in a volunteer service. The 60's, 70's and 80's were a firefighters dream. It seems fires were everywhere. But a 5 year member that commands respect? Feel out other ff's and see if he is as good as he says he is. A good senior ff will help guide you, show you tricks he knows, and act like just one of the guys. The house I spent 10 years at, everyone got a fair shake. As an officer and then a senior ff, I wanted the probies that came it to learn. Not worry about who was going to chew their ass for a mistake. The Chief was always the end all. If you have a problem, talk to the boss of the rig. If that does nothing, talk to the Capt, and then the asst Chiefs. Last talk to the Chief. No one just gets respect, it is always earned.
My department does not have junior members, explorers, etc...We do however have members that are 21 years old.  We handle the respect issue with these members by showing them a proper level of respect based on their experience and time in the fire service and then it's up to them to earn whatever respect they think they deserve.  They earn this respect by being humble and hard working. They show up early and they leave late.  They complete their tasks in a timely and professional manner.  They prove to the members that they want to be here and that they want to be a part of this team.  They do not demand or expect anything but instead strive to earn everything. If they can do these things, than they will have no problems and will be well respected.  If they fail to do these things then they will always be on the outside looking in.
You do have a way with words Shareef... Nice.

The first thing to understand is that there really are generational differences among people. The Baby Boomer generation is different than their kids, their kids different than parents, etc. That doesn't mean things are bad, but it is important to realize there are differences. Whereas years ago the attitude was "keep your mouth shut and eyes and ears open" OK fine, but what happens when there may be a better idea or way to do something?


Yes, we do see an entitlement mentality with younger FF's and it does go beyond just 16-20. The old adage of respect being earned also holds true. The difference being comes to the person and the rank/title they hold. Someone could hold the rank of Captain and be a poor leader, a lazy officer, bad personality etc. The rank should be respected, but it doesn't mean the person necessarily is. Whereas you could have a newer plain old FF who is motivated, great personality, well liked, that will get respect because of their deeds.


There are also those older members who think they may be entitled to respect as well, but isn't necessarily the case. Just because you may be a 45 or 50 year old member, does that mean you don't have to train? You don't have to help with clean up? That can be an issue as well when people see those who think they are "entitled" to standby for dirty work because they have been around for awhile. I'm not talking about station chores, but things like repacking hose, cleaning gear after a fire, re-stocking and so forth. There really are some jobs that becomes everyone's responsibility, so don't expect respect just because you may have 20 plus years on, it is your equipment too.


However, it helps to also stand by traditions and instill this into younger members right away so there isn't an "entitlement" mentality but to understand the sense of earning respect. For us, when new guys are hired, they are told in recruit training their role. They are at the bottom of the seniority list and are expected to fill the traditional roles of new members. If it is the stnce that new members are responsible for cleaning bathrooms, then make the expectations known right away.


In the end, anyone can be molded to fit certain expectations, but it takes an understanding to do so. This means that respect is a two way street. If you want respect, show you can give it, help the newer members along, but don't sit back and expect them to do everything because "you earned your chance to sit". Lead by example, especially for officers and senior members, if you just sit around and don't train, help with getting rigs back in service, etc, don't expect much respect in return. For newer guys, understand that it takes a bit to work to the point of garnering respect.

Thanks Cap!


Andrew. You nailed it. I started when I was 20. I am now 49 and the second assistant chief. It took 5 years before I was cleared to operate an engine. Now the 20somethings think it should happen as soon as they pass pump operators. When we have disciplinary meeting its all ok chief wont happen again. Literally the next night during a call they're starting the argument all over again. Whats done is done move on respect the decision. Nope. No one understands them. When do I get my new pager. How come you didn't say something to the member who did this or that. It's like dealing with my kids. It's not just the same guys over and over it's the same age group whether they joined last month or 3 years ago. Glad I posted this. Didn't think it was just our dept. and I appreciate the insights from the others will apply it when needed. thanks.

Im 15 and i'm the the only junior at my department. i joined when I turned 14. I love firefighting and I'm really interested in it, and everyone at my department knows that because I show it. I come to meetings, trainings, and work nights about a half hour early everytime. When there's a call and my parents aren't home, I don't sit around, I ride my bike. I get mad when i miss a call or work night, and my department members like that about me. Nobody dislikes me, I'm friends with the young guys and the old guys. You learn different things from different generations. I also get respect because I do what I'm told. If they ask me to clean the toilets, I clean them. That simple. So in short, YOU HAVE TO GIVE SOME TO GET SOME.

I was fortunately/unfortunate to join the fire service later in my years and understood the respect of earning your stripes. I was taught this through my father and through a trades apprenticeship. The generation coming through these days unfortunately has been handed to many free-bees so they idea of having to earn something is very foreign to them. I believe it is NEVER too late to introduce someone to the school of hard knocks. Make sure they have physical work to do all shift and show them that pride in any kind of job/task is the only way excepted in the fire service! Honor-Pride-Tradition.

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