Tactical Indiscretions

Tactical Indiscretions 

 ”Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to knowledge” Proverbs 23:12

 Perspective is a gift of wisdom that is often gained through life’s experiences. As firefighters, our skills and their application are enhanced though our experiences such as: Training, incidents, and education.

“Our culture is defined by “the shared assumptions, beliefs, & values of a group or organization” (IFSTA Essentials 6th Edition).

 What or whom defines these beliefs?

 How do we expand our perspective without experience?

 What is the cost if our shared assumptions are wrong?

 A professional isn’t defined by their certification. It is by the quality of their work that they are measured. They are constantly working to master their craft.

 As firefighters, consider the implications of the incorrect application of a tactic: the end result could be far worse than poor performance.

 The results of “tactical indiscretions” can be the needless loss of life & property.

 In order for a tactic to be correctly applied, the individual must have an understanding of its origin. Knowing why is just as important as knowing how.

 In life, we are often found guilty of pursuing something without understanding why. Our vision is limited because of our lack of understanding.

 ”Tactical indiscretions” in our lives result in: failed marriages, broken relationships with our children, alcoholism & the tragic list goes on.

 God has provided a way for us all to gain understanding. The Bible is full of stories of people who made “tactical indiscretions”. Read with an open mind and you will be amazed at their story. David was a man after God’s own heart yet he committed adultery and murder. God used him in amazing ways and He wrote most of the Psalms. Paul was the greatest persecutor of the Christian faith and was present at Steven’s death. After his Damascus road experience, Paul went on to be the greatest evangelist and wrote most of the New Testament.

 We all make mistakes but those mistakes are not the end of us. God will take the brokenness of our lives and use them for His glory. Your test will become your testimony. Don’t give up!

The search for wisdom will lead you to Him. He wants to perfect His work in you.

God Bless,

 Andy Starnes

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The Brotherhood Prayer

Dear God,

We serve a tradition of sacrifice, service and compassion to our fellow man but somewhere along the way we became lost. The fire service was once a calling and now has become a career.

Our values have been compromised and slowly eroded. And in the midst of serving we have forgotten the one who called us. We have forgotten you!

We model ourselves after the verse “Greater love have no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Yet we sacrifice for others and choose not to sacrifice for you or for our brothers. Bring us back O God.

Let us be refreshed, renewed, and reignite the fire of our gift from God that is within us…

So we may bring back brotherhood and glorify your name. May it all be for you Jesus who was the greatest servant of all.

Amen.

The Brotherhood Prayer

The Brotherhood Prayer

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Dear God,

We serve a tradition of sacrifice, service and compassion to our fellow man but somewhere along the way we became lost. The fire service was once a calling and now has become a career.

Our values have been compromised and slowly eroded. And in the midst of serving we have forgotten the one who called us. We have forgotten you!

We model ourselves after the verse “Greater love have no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Yet we sacrifice for others and choose not to sacrifice for you or for our brothers. Bring us back O God.

Let us be refreshed, renewed, and reignite the fire of our gift from God that is within us…

So we may bring back brotherhood and glorify your name. May it all be for you Jesus who was the greatest servant of all.

Amen.

Everyone Goes Home: Will your family be there?

The fire service is an occupation like none other. It is one of brotherhood, sacrifice, and courage. It is a second family that you are grafted into the day you become a firefighter. As a firefighter you work many hours acquiring your necessary certifications, degrees, and work hard to maintain a level of combat readiness mentally and physically. A firefighter who is truly passionate about his or her calling possesses the ability to influence, change, and positively impact other lives in profound ways.

But then there is the dark side of our ambition that is not often talked about…

As you progress through your career you begin to work harder at making a difference and your efforts begin to pay off. You are well-respected, teach/train/mentor others, and you are highly sought after for your expertise. The trouble lies in the earlier statement: The fire department is your second family. Approximately 75% (9 out of 12) of firefighters will suffer a divorce.

Many of us came into the fire service with a loving family who have supported us, encouraged us, and watched after our children while we worked, went to school, or while we were “improving the fire service”. So why is it that we as firefighters, who took an oath to lay down our lives for the public if necessary, have forgotten about our families at home? Are not our spouse and children our greatest investment? Aren’t they our first “crew”? Are they not the reason “everyone goes home”? As scripture states “you have forgotten your first love”.

We spend thousands of hours perfecting our craft, becoming certified, and working to be the best that we can be. How many hours are we dedicating to learning to be a good husband/wife and a good father/mother? How much time are we spending with our family where are mind is truly on them? Is your mind elsewhere?

We are taught that if we are distracted we can make mistakes on the fire-ground. We preach situational awareness, taking pride in what you do, and not becoming complacent. Why is it we not practicing what we preach at home? The statistical data proves that we are at a greater risk for heart attack, cancer, and several other occupationally related illnesses. And that data shows that we are at a much greater risk of divorce than anyone else. So why are we putting the cart before the horse?

My friends, the answer lies in our priorities and core values. Your core values determine who you are. You are a good firefighter because of your values such as: integrity, compassion, courage, honor, honesty, etc. These core values were (hopefully) instilled in you by your family.

If you believe in God, as I do, then your priorities are to be: God, family, then your fire department family, and others. You are to work so that you may live. You should not “live to work”. If your priorities are out of order you will one day find yourself staring at retirement papers wondering if you will be able to live without this job. When you leave this earth you leave behind two things: your word and your children. They are your greatest achievement. They are your greatest mission. Your family is the reason you should be a great firefighter. We should not work so hard that we forget about the ones who are ‘holding the line’ at home.

Being a firefighter means you are never off duty. Your drive to serve your fellow man goes deeper than any patch, badge, or title that man can bestow upon you. The commitment to your calling as a firefighter should be based on the depth of your great love for your family at home and your desire to go home safely to them.

In closing, remember we are blessed with two families. Keep “your home” family first and your fire department family second and your house will always remain in order. Let’s practice what we preach at home and at work.

“Just as firefighters are willing to rescue someone from a
burning building, Christian firefighters must be willing to come to the aid of hurting
firefighters before their marriages end in divorce.” Dr. James Dobson

Lets all respond to the call of our families first and be sure that when we go home they will be there waiting for us with open arms.

Fire Service Family Devotional Series: Our Two Family’s

Our Two Family’s: Let’s keep our priorities straight

The following is a collaborative effort between two fire service professionals, both whom are fathers, and both of whom have a passion for taking care of our families: those at home & our brothers & sisters in the fire house.

This is the beginning of a Blog series on the fire service & family values. We will discuss topics that directly relate to and are affecting fire service members & their families.

 Matt Barnes: I’ve talked before about having the support of your family while pursuing and furthering your career in the fire service. They should know what you want, need and expect and vice versa. I think it’s important to have all your ducks in a row before you not only pursue the service, but before you leave your family at home to go to your fire family. I have to admit, I don’t always do this. The worse feeling is having your spouse call you saying your dog got out, or to fuss at you for not doing something, or to call and say they were leaving you. This is even a worse feeling when this happens right before a call.

Andy Starnes: The fundamental unity of human society and the center of God’s covenant activity is the family. In the fire service we are blessed with two families: our loved ones at home & our brothers/sisters at the fire house. We are a family unit like none other. We strive to support our families at home through our jobs (sometimes working 2-3 jobs) all the while we are attempting to better ourselves at our calling: through training, education, and constantly learning. This can be an overwhelming task, and sadly in our profession, we tend to over-focus on our fire department family while gradually beginning to neglect our loved ones at home. Then our world starts to crumble. How do we regain control?

Matt Barnes: You’re no use to the guys on shift if you’re not mentally prepared and focused. I’ve learned that sometimes, when it comes to families, it’s hard to equally balance both. Putting too much focus on one will in turn put the other on the back burner. I know this to be true from experience. Too much of my focus and attention was on the fire service and being at the station and doing what needs to be done there, that I neglected to put that much time and effort on my family at home. This caused so much of a big mess, which I may end up going from having two families, down to one. And let’s say this, I’m nothing without my wife and daughter, but not to have them by my side and betray their trust, is the worst feeling I’ve felt in a long time. No matter how you handle things at home, make sure that your family at home is happy, feels safe and can sleep peaceful at night knowing that they haven’t been put on the back burner.

Andy Starnes: Our discussion is one of great importance. The fire service is a tradition of brotherhood, courage, duty, and sacrifice that is based on true family values. Our great devotion for our calling as a firefighter should be strengthened by our desire to return home to our loved ones. They are the reason we work, we train, and we stay sharp. We are nothing without them. They are the reason we were able to be who we are today. If you or someone you know is a super devoted firefighter but you sense that they are beginning to neglect their first family (their wife/husband and kids) do the honorable thing: pull them aside, gently, and share with them our story. The fire service has one of the highest divorce rates of any profession (as high as 84% in some areas).  Our jobs are stressful enough being away from our loved ones for 24-48 hours; Let’s all go home and take off the firefighter hat & be the man or woman you promised them you would be. Everyone should go home: Will your family be there waiting for you?

Firefighters: Your families need you! We always say “Never Forget”, well that should also be a reminder to you to “Never Forget” why you are doing this in the first place. Our foundation, those that hold the line for us, are our loved one’s at home. Stay focused and as driven to improve your abilities as a husband/wife as you are at becoming a better firefighter.

God Bless,

Andy Starnes & Matt Barnes

The Fire Service Family Devotional Series

The Marriage May-Day: Firefighters need to call for help

The Marriage May Day:

‘Knowing when to call for help’

In the fire service, we are well trained on the subject of Rapid Intervention and May-Day scenarios. We train on possible downed firefighter situations and how to extricate ourselves or our brothers.  For the non-fire service reader let’s give a brief summation of a May Day scenario.

A reported house on fire is dispatched and as the fire department arrives they receive a report of a resident who is trapped in their bedroom.  The first due Engine establishes command and after performing a 360 takes his/her crew in for the rescue.  Other companies are arriving as the first Battalion Chief assumes command.  The firefighters become trapped as they were searching for the resident and are pinned down by a roof collapse. The downed firefighters are able to transmit a May Day, a call for help, in which this information is received: “May-Day, May-Day, May-Day, we are trapped in the Alpha/Bravo corner of the residence, this is Engine 99, we were performing a primary approximately 50’ in, and we will need RIT with a way to cut us out.”  This is called a LUNAR: location, unit & name, assignment, & the resources needed to affect the rescue. When this happens, a Rapid Intervention Team is deployed (RIT). This is a well-trained crew who is situationally aware of the incident. They have conducted a 360, thrown ground ladders for additional points of egress, controlled utilities, and have been attentive to the fire ground radio traffic.  They immediately go in to affect a rescue on those in need. At this point the Incident Commander orders additional resources, continues to fight the fire, and insures fire ground accountability.

What does this all have to do with marriage?

Nine out of twelve firefighter marriages end in divorce. That’s right 9 out of 12! As a profession, we are higher than the national average (which is 54%).  Firefighters face an enormous amount of stress and it often carries over into their personal lives.  What can we do about this problem? Let’s look at from a firefighter’s viewpoint:

Scene Size-up:

As a firefighter, the process of size-up is a continuous one that begins before the rig ever leaves the station. At a fire scene, the Incident Commander (IC) is constantly evaluating the conditions and whether the situation is improving.  In marriage, we should be constantly assessing our relationship. As a husband, I should be continuously studying and learning about my wife. Initially our passions, or fire if you will, are great for each other. Why do we treat our spouse’s differently after we are married? We shouldn’t stop dating each other after we are married. It is merely the beginning of a lifelong journey.

As we go through life, the conflicts and commitments tend to cause us to focus less on each other and more on the immediate needs/concerns/or problems of life. Couples slowly begin to drift apart due to a lack of attention and care.  A relationship takes a great deal of work and dedication. The couple must be holding on to each other during the hard times or they will drift apart.

Working Fire: You have come to the realization that your marriage is in trouble. Sadly, most realize this way too late. It comes when they learn of infidelity or have been served divorce papers. As on a fire scene we have to be proactive, having an Incident Action Plan and or a strategy is key to the successful mitigation of an incident. In marriage, we need to embrace the plan, God’s plan, and follow His principles.

If you have read the Bible, you will find that the marital relationships that are referenced there are not without fault. Some faced great difficulty, trial, adultery, and some of it is even comical as Solomon wrote “It is better for a man to live on the corner of a roof top than underneath with a nagging & complaining wife.” (See Proverbs).

Firefighters tend to be problem/solution oriented. Someone calls for help and we fix their problem. It troubles us to realize that we have a problem that we are not able to solve. In firefighting, we train, read, exercise and discipline our lives so that when we face adversity we are ready. We have thousands of hours spent on perfecting or learning our craft. How many hours have you invested in being a better husband or wife?

We need to be putting our house in order: God, our spouse, our children, family, friends etc. Identifying our problems early on and taking ownership of your part in it shows that you are not trying to blame your spouse. By coming to the one you love in humility and brokenness shows that you truly love them. This shows that you care more about the relationship than more about who is right or wrong. “Confession is the first step in repair and often the most difficult. Without confession, forgiveness is impossible” (Big Ideas of the Bible by Mark Fackler). In my life, I always say: “I can right or I can be happy”.  Being right is far less important to me that showing my wife that I love her more than life itself.

I look back at our wedding day where we stood before God and many witnesses and remember the promise that we made. Do we take that promise lightly? Do we lessen the value of our commitment when our spouse has wronged us and refuses to change? In the book “The power of a praying husband” Stormie Omartian states “But God spoke to my heart, saying, It is not a matter of who needs to change, it is a matter of who is willing to change. If you’re willing to change, I (God) can work through you right now.”(pg.22)

 

 

Calling the May-Day

May-Day: You are in trouble. Your marriage has collapsed. Your spouse is leaving or has left you. Now what?

Call for help! James 4:2 states “You have not because you ask not”.  Our pride is often our biggest enemy. We believe that we can do anything. After all, people call us to solve their problems right? This can be a detriment to your marriage. Call upon God, humble yourself and ask for help. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).

Reach out to your brothers/sisters in the fire service. I find it appalling that we will lay down our lives for complete strangers but yet we will not confide in one another when we are hurting. I know that many of us have fallen victim to confiding in someone only to find out that they betrayed our trust. When you are hurting don’t put up a false front. Those who know you best will see through it quickly and if you don’t confess it to them you may find your situation worsening.

Humble yourself and realize that your marriage is more important than another’s opinion. If you are a firefighter who is pinned down and needs help, you do not care who helps you as long as help comes and comes quickly. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) My coworkers and I believe that it is better to have abundant resources than having to wait for the cavalry. In other words, “I’d rather be looking at it than looking for it.” The body of Christ is all around you and if you call His name He will be there.

Additional Resources: Many churches offer marital counseling, divorce care, and other marriage ministries to help those in need. As in the fire service if you think you are in trouble you probably are: Call the May Day! Don’t let your pride get in the way of losing your spouse and your children.

Rapid Intervention Teams: You have called for help and are awaiting the cavalry. Sadly, not everyone’s relationships will be reconciled. As in RIT scenarios not all firefighters are rescued successfully.  The most common similarities in fire ground Line of Duty Deaths after a May Day has been transmitted were: lack of fire ground accountability, no hose line protection, and poor communication.

Marriage Accountability:

In marriage, if we are not growing closer together we are probably drifting apart. Understanding the need to constantly invest in your marriage helps to put our priorities in order. Your marriage takes maintenance. As a couple, you need to be investing in each other through prayer, date nights, family time, marriage ministries (such as Focus on the Family’s weekend to remember marriage conference) and taking the time to help each other grow closer as you further your relationship with God.

No protection:

If we step outside of our marriage in areas that could be viewed as inappropriate we are setting ourselves up for disaster. Some signs of being unprotected are:

If you spend more time with your buddies than you do with your spouse(Warning!)

If you find yourself confiding in marital matters, consistently, with another person who is not your spouse (Warning!)

If you have a habit that takes precedence or priority over your spouse or family (Warning!)

Many husbands and wives suffer divorce due to infidelity/adultery. But the common misconception is that it is due to a physical affair. If you are married and you allow the devil to get a foot hold in your life do not be surprised when the divorce papers arrive. Pornography, alcohol abuse, addiction, job lust (loving your job more than your spouse), activities that consume your time so you cannot spend time with your family (these can be good activities as well), and anything that you allow to take precedence over your relationship with God and your wife will ultimately drive a wedge between you.

Poor communication:

I heard a marriage counselor state that most people learn how to “not talk to each other” by getting married. He went on to say, walk into any restaurant and you can immediately tell who most of the married couples are. They are the ones sitting there silently or eating and not paying any attention to each other.

On the fire ground communication is critical. Without good communication, someone’s life may be lost. The same goes for our marriage, without good communication and the willingness to talk to each other (lovingly) we are already headed for a disaster. Take the time to talk with your spouse. Listen empathically, this means that you really care what he/she is saying, and be engaged which in my case means: put down the phone, stop doing what you are doing, and listen to your spouse by looking at them directly.

Marital LUNAR:

My purpose in writing this is not to offend or hurt anyone but to help. A firefighter who transmits a May Day sends out information based on the LUNAR acronym. It provides those who are coming to save them with critical information.  Calling your LUNAR in a Marriage May Day could be seen as this:

Lost: My location in my marriage has become uncertain and I need RIT (Redemption Intervention Team) I will submit and follow my GPS (God’s Plan for Salvation).

Understanding: Verbalizing to your spouse that you understand the seriousness of the situation. Confess your brokenness, take ownership of your part of the relationship, and in true humility show your spouse that your greatest concern is for the restoration & renewal of your marriage.

Name your problem: Look at your situation and take a step back. Where did your troubles really begin? What was the “slow fade” that caused your relationship to crumble? True reconciliation will only occur if you understand what brought you to this point in the first place.

Assignment: You now know the seriousness of your situation, you have admitted you have a problem, you have named it, and now it’s time to take action. Step forward in faith with your spouse and begin working on the problem(s).  This will be uncomfortable but necessary.

Reconciliation: The goal in calling the marriage May Day is not to rescue you from your current circumstances but to reconcile your hurts, wrongs, and lack of trust so that your marriage can begin a new as Christ has redeemed you. Let Christ dwell in your heart and focus on His will. His Holy Spirit will guide, teach, and admonish you along the way. Understand that this can be a slow and long process. Your relationship, most likely, did not fall apart over night; so don’t expect your spouse to jump right into the relationship like nothing happened. Something did happen! Now, take this set of difficult circumstances and use it to make your relationship stronger. But remember, you must take each step slowly. Your spouse needs to trust you again their trust has to be earned.

Conclusion:

I see a tremendous need in our profession for marriage ministry and counseling daily. If you are as aware of this as I am, I challenge you to do something truly heroic: Be there for your brother, listen to them, guide them, and don’t let them travel down a road that could lead to harm. You swore an oath to protect lives and property. This oath should begin by protecting your family and your co-workers around you. Don’t turn a blind eye to their problem and use their plight as gossip material later.  Step up to the challenge and show them that you truly care. Let’s save ourselves so we can continue the greatest tradition the fire service has to offer which is that of Sacrifice:  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Sacrifice your time, your energy, your pride and help one another.

Stay Safe & God Bless

Andy J. Starnes

Isaiah 65:24

The Fire Service: We Still Believe

We Still Believe

“He did it with all his heart and prospered.”
2 Chronicles 31:21

As a member of the family of the fire service, we share a bond like none other. Our family consists of a unique group of individuals who, despite their differences or backgrounds, come together with their collective strengths and accomplish amazing things under very harsh circumstances. We are able at a moment’s notice to strategize and formulate a plan to mitigate an incident that we may have never even faced before.

We come from all walks of life. We are a diverse group of men and women who, as a whole, care about others more than ourselves. We share a common drive to better ourselves all for the sake of others. Our stations are called “fire houses” because they are our “home away from home”. We spend approximately 1/3rd of our lives with our brothers and sisters in the fire house. We come to know the good, bad, and the ugly sides of one another and work through it all. We are there for our fellow citizens in the tough times and we are there for each other in our times of difficulty.

The fire service has suffered many attacks lately due to the world’s financial crisis. Once it was unthinkable to suggest that a municipality would consider laying off firefighters. Sadly, many have lost their jobs, saw stations close, and in some cities, firefighters are duct taping their boots together to get by.

After 9/11, the fire service received support in almost epic proportions. Funding, grants, donations, and our support from the public were tremendous. As in all things, we have seen this appreciation fade. Why in the face of so much adversity would anyone want to be a firefighter these days?

Charles Spurgeon says “This is no unusual occurrence; it is the general rule of the moral universe that those men prosper who do their work with all their hearts, while those are almost certain to fail who go to their labor leaving half their hearts behind them”

The men & women of the fire service love what we do. Many perform their calling as a volunteer receiving no compensation for all of their time, effort, and sacrifice. Some of us are career firefighters, who also volunteer as well. The men & women of the fire service “work with all their hearts” and believe in something much bigger than themselves. The fire service, no matter how much it is cut back, will always be a brotherhood of those who give more than they receive.  No other profession, besides our armed forces (God Bless Them!), willingly sacrifices their time, their health, and even their life for the sake of others.

Whether or not you believe in God, know that the fire service is a tradition of belief. We believe in values, traditions, and morals that are eternal. We wear a cross on our chest that symbolizes the first firefighters in Malta who died or were severely injured while they rescued their brothers who were being burned. We don’t require recognition, appreciation, or even a thank you. We do what we do out of our great love for the calling. A calling that says “We will be here, we will show up when no one else will, & we will do everything in our power to protect or save your life.” We still believe in this calling.

While the world may seem to becoming less compassionate, less appreciative, and less concerned about others. Remember there are dedicated men & women who serve together, no matter their differences or backgrounds, and will be there to help in a moment’s notices. My friends, this is the power of belief.