Our Personal Ventilation Profile:
In the fire service, ventilation is a topic that is discussed often and with passionate debate. Chief Ed Hartin explains it well in the following quote:
“Control of ventilation has been used as a firefighting strategy for many years, but has evolved along two paths. One approach is to exclude air to limit the oxygen required for combustion. However, another approach is to remove hot and toxic smoke and fire gases from the building.”
Both considerations have their merit and are warranted in certain circumstances but have we considered how this can be applied in our own daily lives?
Are we adding air to our personal fires or excluding air and what are the results of our tactical personal ventilations?
Every fire is ventilated at some point whether its normal ventilation (no obstructions), unplanned ventilation (window fails, door is forced), positive pressure ventilation (where we control the inlet and exhaust), or anti-ventilation (where we decay the fire by removing the air).
So how do we define our own personal ventilation profile?
This is a healthy way for us to vent. Normal ventilation involves the exchange of air inside a structure with the outside air. As a fire develops, this exchange provides to support combustion and allows some smoke to escape. This air inside the structure has a significant impact on the fire development.
An individual who ‘vents’ normally allows the amount of air needed in and allows the ‘smoke (stress)’ to escape.
When the pressures of life begin to build we can use healthy coping mechanisms to manage or mitigate our stress such as prayer, exercise, meditation, and our hobbies etc.
And many of us have found that peer support is crucial to managing these stressors so we use peer support groups, counselors, accountability groups, or pastoral counseling. This allows us to relieve the over-pressure of that stress through healthy means.
What is an unplanned ventilation?
This occurs when occupants leave a door/window open or the fire causes the window to fail. In some cases, we the firefighters upon making entry can create undesirable changes in the ventilation profile.
An individual who suffers from an ‘unplanned ventilation’ may have left a door open to their past that because of their haste to escape the intensity of the fires of life. This person may have a sudden failure of one of their ‘windows’ in life.
By definition, a window is an opening in a building (or our life) that allows in air, light, or both. Our windows in our lives are the things that are most valuable to us.
For example: our families, our relationships, our health, our jobs, or our friends. When these ‘windows’ fail, as in a fire, we vent in ways we haven’t anticipated. We suffer outbursts, breakdowns, and rapid changes in our temperament that often injure others that are in our ‘flow path’. We convert to a uni-directional flow and they are in the exhaust. In other words, the ones we love the most are often hurt by our unplanned ventilation.
These failures are often intensified by the ‘winds’ in our lives that tend to blow in just at the right time. The old expression, when it rains..it pours.
For example: If someone recently suffers a divorce and then their boss announces they laying off 10 employees and you happen to be one of them. Then the next morning, your car breaks down followed by your sanity breaking down.
With these ventilation terms we now have experiential relevance. They become relatable to the moments of our lives. So how do we ‘vent’ when the pressures of life become too intense?
By defining our profile, it can help guide each of us through the process of how we can better deal with the fires of our lives. Our end goal will be to understand our need for ventilation; that is discerning what is healthy and what is not
Let us look at our lives and examine the times when the fires of our life became overwhelming.
How did we handle it?
Did we seek healthy means of ventilation?
Several years ago, I was forced to conduct a painful self examination of my own personal ventilation profile. I was experiencing a great deal of stress at work and I was suppressing it with anti-ventilation. And rather than after shutting the door to the fire and then going in extinguishing the problem I would let it smolder until I got home.
And when my family would open the door I would explode upon them. A small spark was all that was needed to create a raging inferno in my life. I share this with you because I want you to understand that we are all human and we all break. It is not a question of if but when and how we handle those broken moments can define our relationships for the rest of our lives.
In order to be understood we must first seek to understand. With that being said:
What is it that has kept you from allowing you to ‘tactically vent’ your stress?
In these moments that we have suffered, what do each of us think would have helped us through it all?
Where do we draw our strength from in trying times?
Who do we rely on when others fail us?
My friends, my faith is what sustains me. It is my rock that I stand on and most of the time I kneel in desperate prayer as I learn to let God carry my burdens.
But He has not let left us alone. His word promises that He will never leave nor forsake us. He has given us His Holy Spirit and those who love Him to encourage us, to lift us up, and to carry us through the fires of our lives.
It is up to us to choose to be brave enough to admit that we cannot do this alone. God doesn’t want us to be alone and He asks us to “Cast our cares upon Him, for He cares for You” (1 Peter 5:7). May we seek out His encouragement and the strength that we receive from others in fellowship.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries