This is a reply I wrote to a discussion of "piercings". I thought it was worth repeating. You can agree or disagree but if you THINK about what I am saying, I have accomplished my mission. As always, this is my blog & if you don't want to read it, there is a little button there you can push so you can go back to another page & you don't have to read what I am thinking or how I feel about this topic.
Yes, I do know about steam burns, from experience. That happened years ago before nomax/pbi, hoods & helmet liners. With the newer equipment we are a lot safer than we once were. Before I had a lot of experience and became a safety officer. With the new neoprene face masks I can get and keep a seal wearing my glasses that I couldn't get with the old style masks. I now have a hood that keeps my neck & ears from being exposed. Oh yeah, when they get wet, which "should" be rare because of all the other protection we have on they can cause problems. But if I'm THAT close to danger, there are likely other things happening as well and I need to decide quickly what I am going to do about it.
I also know, again from experience, that sometimes we push the line a bit too far and things do happen. I am an advocate for interior attack if it is worth the risk. RISK is what I am talking about. This whole issue is about whether the risk is worth the outcome. Sometimes it isn't and you have to admit to that. We think we are superhuman because we have tools and the knowledge that in most circumstances keep us from being hurt & yes it is worth the risk, most of the time. Safety begins with you. You have to decide for yourself what risk you are willing to take. I can't make that decission for you, your officers can't either. No one else can.
Personally, I am not only concerned with MY department but of the "trends" of fire departments everywhere. Some of those provide mutual aid for my department and they deserve the best people they can get as well. The type of people we are seeing in the fire service in this day are much different than in the past. They have to be or we (particularly VFDs) won't survive.
I am also concerned with recruitment of new people into the fire service and being able to retain the ones we have managed to bring in. The numbers of people coming into the fire service on BOTH sides, career and volunteer are dwindling. We need to think about that as well.
"Hey, I am a physically fit 22 yr old man, I think I could be an asset to a VFD but I need to think about this. They have a zero tolerance policy for drugs & alcohol (I AM TOTALLY FOR THIS ONE). I have to take lots of training. I could get hurt. It involves a lot of time and I have to change my originallity because my piercings don't appeal to the professionalism of a job I am not going to get paid to do."
I am NOT saying or advocating going to a call & looking like a bunch of yahoos & idiots. DOING the job in a professional manner & representing your department in the community is important. TRAINING your people to do the job effectively and efficiently is more important than how they look. When you do a good job the community respects your organization as a whole. Most people who care enough to be firefighters realize this. I understand that some don't but they only need to be educated. Then they can decide if it is worth the effort for them.
You have said yourself that "your world" is an upscale community where firefighters drive BMWs & other luxury cars. They have jobs that support those things and are very likely the class/culture of people who aren't into piercings & body art. In my area, cars like that are rare, we drive pick ups & minivans. In your world you may be able to afford to make demands that I can't afford to choose from. In your world, you may feel its ok to put people in situations that I can't approve in mine. I live in a world where the unemployment rate is 7% throughout the state & closer to 10% in my county. Firefighters come & go faster than I get gray hair because of economics & family situations, risks & education, not to mention personalities. I'm not going to turn down a guy with a nose ring who is genuinely interested in the job and who "could" be the one to pull my fat out of the fryer BECAUSE he has a nose ring.
The world is changing. WE have to change with it and become more diverse in our thinking and in how we do things. We have to decide which battles are worth fighting. Which we can/should win & which won't cause an adverse affect in the long run, say 10yrs from now.
The saying "Two hundred years of tradition unempeeded by progress" doesn't just apply to firefighting tactics.