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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Wow...I read some of these replies and get mixed feelings here.

When I joined the fire service as a junior firefighter it was in a busy volunteer firehouse on Long Island NY.  My father at the time was a Captain of the Engine Co. with 35 years service, but I never used that fact when I was working to gain the respect of the firefighters, I used my personal actions and trained hard and listened whenever a firefighter or officer spoke.

I was taught the old school way I guess, my father always told me to keep my mouth shut when at the firehouse, always volunteer to do stuff for the firefighters, listen to them talk when they discuss recent fires and learn from them.

During our meetings if the chief of department walked in to visit us we were to stand at attention until relieved by the chief.  In short, it was a paramilitary agency, as it should be.  Our lives are in danger when we roll out the door, its not a game or competition, its a life or death situation, people's lives are in our hands, and training should be as serious as it gets.  When a senior firefighter or officer came to our drills we were all in awe, as if a hollywood actor showed up for autographs, and we listened to them.  They took the time away from families, on top of their drill and meeting nights, and came to teach us, guide us, and our firefighter advisor made sure we knew that and to respect it when it happened.  I listened better at the firehouse then I did at home and that upset my mother!

As I progressed through training and became 18 and joined the same engine company as my father, than eventually moved to another part of the state and joined there I started to earn more and more respect from my senior firefighters and officers, and they commented on that regularly BUT I never let that go to my head like most of today's younger generation would.  Today, you give a young guy a complement and all of a sudden they are running for lieutenant.  I continued to take all the training that was offered and eventually became a Level II Firefighter, Haz-Mat Technician, NYS Health and Safety Officer, and Fire Investigator.  I continue to take this training more than once though and refresh my training often.


I am tired and sickened to see young guys/gals join todays fire service, take Firefighter I and think they have achieved Master Firefighter overnight and deserve any and all respect.  They respond to fires and disrespect senior firefighters simply trying to offer their experiences to them by saying "I took training and know what I am doing" and they dont listen.  Above all, they argue with officers on scene...SERIOUSLY?!?!?  I have seen this, actually, I have been the officer receiving this disrespectful attitude in front of other firefighters and homeowners when a younger, snotty, stuck-up firefighter who ran for officer and lost several times argued every decision I made in the field.  He was quickly dealt with by other officers.  The lack of respect for senior members, officers and past officers has seriously gone from bad to worse and it sickens me to no end.

I think of the fire service as a branch of the military and should be run the same way, with tough, experienced officers and training requirements, and actuall requirements to become officer, levels of rank for the firefighters according to training levels and years in the service like firefighter first class, firefighter specialist etc etc, but I am just loosing hot air I guess because that will never happen with all of the cry babies out there who didnt get enough attention from their parents and want the fire service to be turned into a social club and not have to go through the same steps the rest of us had to to get to where we are today.  It was mentioned already, kids today get way too many freebies, and always get ribbons for participating in events even though they didnt win, which I think is weakening our younger generations and making it so they expect to get something without actually trying or earning it...

Sorry, but my daughter is learning to respect her elders and always earn what she gets out of life and never to expect something for free.

Brian made some excellent points.  I also am a rookie FF, been with my department 10 months now.  (Granted, I didn't sign up until I was 32 yrs old, but I can tell you my personal attitude hasn't changed much in the last decade and a half of my life.)  Haven't been through FF1 yet, but have taken every single other training opportunity offered to me.  The way I approach it is the older members don't owe me CRAP.  We're a smaller department, only 25 guys on the roster.  When the pagers go off, depending on the day and time, we might only get 6-8 guys responding, and they might have to depend on me.  

Basically, as a rookie, you're walking in to an organization where to a certain degree, everyone there is trusting their life to you, because you MIGHT end up being their lifeline.  If you want respect from people in that situation, you have to prove it to them FIRST.  Approach the department with the full knowledge that you will get no respect until you have EARNED it, and prove to everyone there that you are dedicated to the department, and willing to learn, and you'll build that respect quickly.  

Respect starts in the home. There, I said it. If it isn't taught in the home by the parents, it will not be shown later in life.

Whether I liked someone or not, I had better show my elders respect, unless I wanted to french kiss the back of a hand. OMG!!! my parents hit me! So be it. A couple of times was enough to get the point across.

And even to this day, I am mindful of the people I am around. I can visualize a hand coming out of the clouds should I forget my manners and disrespect someone.

Since the back of the hand isn't an option in my department, there are other ways of getting the point across. Say, washing the pumper with a tooth brush, or taking every tool and appliance off  the apparatus, laying them on the floor, and then putting them back, and repeat again and again. But, we have some pretty decent "juniors" (AKA kids) that are mindful. The ones that aren't, generally don't stay long. 

I have learned to respect my elders and those that rank higher than myself. My department is a small, "redneck" department. We have about 25 active members of which three of us our "juniors" or "associate members". For the most part the three of us understand and respect the higher rankong members of the dept. The problem is when the other adn sometimes higher- ranking members also want to act like kids. Then the chief comes along and we all behave! I have only been a member for 6 months-but I respect every member on our roster!!

The issue in many cases in that these young members have NEVER been taught to respect anyone, including their parents.  By the time they get to the fire department a pattern of behavior has already been established.

How to combat that?  Clear, specific by-laws and SOGs, with clear specific progressive discipline all the way up to termination.  No excuses, no exceptions, if rules are violated discipline MUST immediately be applied.  That is how you break that arrogance and disrespect.

Of course you treat them initially with respect, and explain the tradition and Bortherhood of the fire service.  Everybody gets a chance to prove themselves.  If they go down the right path, praise, additional duties, perks come their way.  If they go down the wrong path, restrictions, discipline, and finally termination may come their way.  The simple truth is we do not not have to keep anyone that is more trouble than they are worth.   

it goes both do you get the 50 and 60 something year old to respect the ideas of the younger generations? Take for example my dept had an issue with attack lines......our dept runs triple fold attack lines but after drilling with the minute man, we wanted to switch to it. We found it more efficeint and easier to pack and deploy. it took us a year to even get it to have a trial period because "we've always had triple fold, its the Fire Dept X way of doing things"........we also had an issue with bunk beds. we recently replaced our semi-run down bunkbeds with newer and more improved ones. We usually have around 10 16-40yr olds bunking in everynight staffing both suppression and EMS. We have a core group of 20 people who consistenty bunk in and staff. When it came time to replace the bed not one of us younger guys was asked for our input. the Bunk Bed committee was consisted of our late 70s president, 50 something secretary and they had a late 20s treasurer on the committee. none of whom activily ride nor asked for our opinions on what we wanted. We found bunk beds cheaper and more comfortable than what they got. We even offered to buy the basic supplies to refurb them, thats all they really needed was a piece of plywood under the mattresses, but we got shot down. They order steel bunk beds from a prison in western MD with 3 inch mattresses. Once young guys started complaining they got suspended for hurting peoples feelings and being ungrateful. These people who got suspended where the ones who ride everyday abd train everyday, literally evryday. Our dept has a reputation as being the best in the county and one of the best in the area, this is because we continously are able to staff 4 engines, a truck, tanker, rescue and at least one BLS ambulance on a fire run and still leave people sitting in station. We train literally everyday in some way, even on the days where we have scheduled trainings. We have members from neighboring stations come and train on occasions. Recently one who is a 46yr old firefighter emt was around from extrication training from a dept that cant figure out how we get done pin jobs so quickly. the instructor is a late 20s capt in our dept and a career capt for the DOD. after the class the gentleman from the other company came up and said "Now i Know why young guys run circles around us on wrecks and fires" Our average age for active riders is 24yrs. We take pride in being a young youthful dept that consistently gets the job done day in and day out. The only reason i havent mentioned our name on here is because the older generations dont like us using our name without permission because theyve seen depts have issues, not our depts, not even any in our area, just some.  Granted we have occasional issues with young guys however the ones who have issues usually fade quick or straighten up. We have a slogan/reputation we use and make people live up to "The best of the best" usally if you dont comply with that you dont stick around.

First of all, unless your Fire Department is part of some ultra-secret agency of the United States government, it is absolute Bull Shit that you need permission to mention its name here on these forums.  Looking at your profile and seeing the name of the community you list, if I cared enough, I would bet it wouldn't take me long to figure it out anyways.

I don't disagree that sometimes the old timers can get in the way of progress.  The truth is though sometimes the way you approach suggesting a change has as much to do with the resistance you receive as the idea.  I was the young upstart trying to help modernize my first POC FD.  I had to learn some diplomacy, and tact, and salesmnship to get my ideas looked at.  In the end I didn't always get what I wanted, but myself and other young guys started have influence and impact because we could explain and justfy why we wanted to try something new.

The bed thing to me sounds like nonsense to me.  But that is simply how life is some times.  Maybe if the number of guys bunking in dropped off because of the crappy nattresses and it was made known that it is impossible to sleep on those new mattresses a change might be made.  Or maybe if all the guys who bunk in went to the next business meeting and said these matresses just aren't cutting it a change might be made.  Depending on how those members complained the disciplinary action may have been correct, or an over reaction.  Hard to tell from here.

We don't have juniors on our department but will take um at 18. We have not really had a problem with this but when you join you are told right up front what is expected of you. I will say me and our captain our at odds right know. He thinks once a person finishes FF1 they should be issued their own mask and be sent right in a burning building. I on the other hand had to prove i was able to go in long after i finished FF1 i was half though FF2 when i be came certified SCBA. It had nothing to do with respect just common sense. We do have a guy that did run for lieutenant last year against me and only has 3 years on the department a good firefighter but to cocky to earn the respect he needs to get voted in as a line officer.Vote was 27 to 1. We also assign one of our older FF's to a newbie to show him the ropes and this also makes sure he doesn't feel like a outsider  which was how it was when i joined. I would say respect them as a person but let them know up front that they will have to work hard to earn the respect of a firefighter.

I walk into your FD and join, I expect to be treated with respect from day one and vice versa I will show you respect from day one.


It's not a thing that is earnt. It goes both ways until proven otherwise....


I agree with this to a point.  Every human deserves basic respect until they prove they deserve more or deserve none at all.

Respect from your peers in the fire service is indeed earned.

Don, I'd argue that trust  is what is earned, not respect.

I would disagree....respect may be earned perhaps quicker than trust, but earned nonetheless. Take rank for instance, one has to respect the rank, they don't have to respect the person wearing it.

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