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Do we let tradition get in the way of progress?

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  • Do we let tradition get in the way of progress?

    I have been noticing a lot of different post here lately that have caused me to take pause, and take a long hard look at the fire service.

    My question to you is this:

    Do we (the fire service as a whole) let tradition, interfere with progress?

    I do not view tradition as a bad thing. It is a necessary, and is usually a benchmark for progress; letting us know where we have been, and where we need to go.

    I agree with a previous posting, and I will copy it here:
    "Tradition is very important. It is the life blood of what makes a great company and a great department. We stand on the shoulders and graves of the firefighters that went before us. The minute we think that we are better and we don't need tradition, that is the beginning of the end of what was once a great company and a great
    department."Don Van Holt, FDNY, Retired

    Here is also something to ponder; what we change and introduce to the world of firefighting today --- will be the tradition and history of future generations of firefighters.

    It used to be tradition to ride the tailboard of fire apparatus, and we fought it
    tooth and nail when they told us that we had to ride in an enclosed cab. It used to be a mark of a brave and effecient firefighter, how much smoke he could handle- then when SCBA came into use- only the rookies used them- and most were ridiculed for doing so.

    Now some departments feel that they need to change from turnout gear, and revert back to the days of long coats and 3/4 boots.

    I don't think that we should ever forget tradition; but I am beginning to see where it is effecting the fire service- and to great detriment.

    What do you think?


    "In Omnia Paratus"

    -- The opinions presented here are my own; and are not those of any organization that I belong to, or work for.

  • #2
    Tradition and progress have both been a mainstay of the fire service. From the days of the bucket brigade to the modern engines and ladder trucks of today. From the wet sponge in the mouth to SCBA. The advancement in tactics and strategy.

    Tradition is all of these things and much more, but tradition is also aggressiveness in fighting fires. Progress is part of the tradition but the go get em attitude is also a big part of that.

    Fire companies wanting to be first in and attacking a fire with bravado is also a part of that tradition. One which I hope never dies. Saving lives and property is another part.

    Both tradition and progress must be kept in the forefront of todays fire departments. Progress is a part of that tradition. I could go on but I hope you get my point.

    [This message has been edited by FireLt1951 (edited 04-29-2001).]


    • #3
      This is a very interesting post that I'm not sure if there is a right answer to.

      I'm sure everyone will agree that tradition is very important to our jobs. It's what seperates us from being 9-5 business men and lets us live our jobs.

      I also feel that firefighters of today learn a lot from firefighters of the past. We are not better, but we are much more prepared. The firefighter of yesterday didn't have 'fire school' they had on the job mentorships. We learn in fire school what has been learned by hundreds of years of firefighting. We have also learned that while we don't necessarily want change, we can't argue that for the most part, change has only served to improve the fire department in the past.

      FF. Mike Burnes
      Whitehall Fire Division


      • #4
        I agree completely with what FF McDonald says and would like to quickly add to his comment.
        Although it is important to embrace traditionalism; there are safety considerations that occassionally halt the traditionalism for the sake of progress in the protection of firefighters. The "riding on the tailboard" example is perfect as an example to point out the change and the progression in the fire service as a whole. Although we'd all like to ride on the tailboard, it just isn't the safest thing to do anymore, and the fire service realized this. Progession is where the fire service is heading, and I like the concept. As firefighters become more educated as a whole, progression and the realization that the former traditional techniques need to be retired, are realized. The techniques in the traditional sense will never be forgotten, but will rather be immortalized as "the way it used to be". I'm happy with the direction of the fire service, less firefighters are dying from risky practices. It used to be that the average life span for a firefighter was 10 years less compared to the average person. I'm proud to say that the life span is growing, and progression is the reason for the life span increase.

        Men resemble gods in nothing so much as doing good to their fellow creatures. Cicero


        • #5
          Great topic!
          Tradition does limit us but it also measures us against our past. There is good and bad in everything, take the good parts and keep the tradition alive, let the bad turn into "the way we used to do it".

          Stay safe


          • #6
            Exactly what Ive been thinking the wholetime.
            Tradition isnt a bad thing if we use the tradition as a learning tool. Todays firefighters have a lot more tools and technology and a better understanding of safety. When the experience catches up to the education todays firefighters will be able to handle emergencies in ways they couldnt have imagined 20 years ago.

            I do find that a lot of the guys who have been in the fire service 25-30 years tend to feel threatened by younger firefighters. I think both groups can learn from each other but the vets need to understand that the young guys have been raised in a technologcally advanced generation and there is no going back. Only forward.


            • #7
              Whose tradition? What we call traditional--say, 70's type stuff--was new-fangled to the 50's guys. And what they had was new-fangled to the 30's guys.

              We define tradition, in many ways, as a what a previous generation considered state-of-the-art; by its very definition, those items one day become obsolete.

              Thus we are hard-pressed to hang on to outdated technology purely for love of tradition. Instead, we should emulate our firefighting ancestors in their bravery and dedication, but we should probably leave the leather hose in the museum.


              • #8
                Good topic...

                Pretty much agree with all that's been said...Both are vital parts of the service... One thing I wanted to add on...

                We need to make sure that, in the name of tradition, we don't use the phrase 'We've always done it this way' to get in the way of progress...We are better prepared than those before us, and those after us will be better prepared...One should always be open to new things, and making progress...

                Be safe...

                spo0k- Does the BN have the new buggy yet?


                • #9
                  Personally I don't think this is a good topic!
                  Haha got you again Marc!

                  You might be on to something. But if doing things the traditional way is working for individual FDs then why should they change?

                  Ya know if it ain't broke don't fix it.

                  And the point about going back to the longcoats and 3/4 boots, lets all wait and see what the final word out of Boston is and see if stress related injuries go down or not. They may be on to something because they were also one of the FDs that tried out bunker gear when it first came out.

                  The statements above are my own opinions

                  FF Greg Grudzinski
                  Oaklyn Fire Dept.
                  Station 18-3


                  • #10
                    Tradition is defined by Webster as, "the handing down of beliefs and customs by word of mouth or by example without written instruction." As such, brotherhood, bravery, agressiveness, innovation, service and selflessness are all traditions of the fire service that we should and do hold near and dear and, hopefully, will never let die. Technology cannot, and should not, change these beliefs and customs. It should, however, serve to make our jobs safer and more effective. Embrace the changes that make out jobs better, and fight those that threaten to destroy the true traditions of the fire service.


                    • #11
                      Very well said DCFD1051!!

                      tc/ss and stay low

                      Fight like you Train and Train like you Fight.


                      • #12
                        Each new generation of firefighters generally follow the traditions of earlier generations. Yet the fire services improve it knows that it has to in order to keep up with the times. Therfore each generation start new traditions. Lets us go back in history and seen what traditions were started by some of the different generations of firefighters. A new tradition in my department is a lot more proffesionalsim and less play. That is one of the traditions that we will leave the department. Start your own new tradition. Larry


                        • #13
                          Great Topic!!
                          Tradition.......to me at least is the everyday way we act around the firehouse and the scene. The tools of the trade are gonna remain the same with some newer modifications or ways to make them more efficent. But in my eyes TRADITION is the way we do our job cuz its our job not because we want to be on the front page of the paper or get numerous awards.Tradition is the new guy grabbing the handpump without being told,answering the phone.Tradition is also gonna be different whatever department you may work for . we all have our little or big traditional things.


                          • #14
                            Main Entry: tra·di·tion
                            Pronunciation: tr&-'di-sh&n
                            Function: noun
                            Etymology: Middle English tradicioun, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French tradition, from Latin tradition-, traditio action of handing over, tradition -- more at TREASON
                            Date: 14th century
                            1 : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)
                            2 : the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
                            3 : cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
                            4 : characteristic manner, method, or style

                            Main Entry: 1prog·ress
                            Pronunciation: 'prä-gr&s, -"gres, US also and British usually 'prO-"gres
                            Function: noun
                            Etymology: Middle English, from Latin progressus advance, from progredi to go forth, from pro- forward + gradi to go -- more at PRO-, GRADE
                            Date: 15th century
                            1 a (1) : a royal journey marked by pomp and pageant (2) : a state procession b : a tour or circuit made by an official (as a judge) c : an expedition, journey, or march through a region
                            2 : a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal) : ADVANCE
                            3 : gradual betterment; especially : the progressive development of mankind
                            - in progress : going on : OCCURRING

                            #2 from Tradition, and #3 from Progress.

                            I feel that those both accurately describe what we are discussing. I also think that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. Have you ever heard this one,"The Fire Service, hundreds of years of tradition unimpeded by progress" I have, but I don't agree.

                            To me Tradition is the brake on the throttle of progress. How many times has some manufacturer come up with the latest, greatest widget that is sure to make our lives better, safer, easier or whatever. How many times have we proven that the tried and true methods, that experience, is the ultimate deciding factor.

                            The traditions of the Fire Service keep yesterday alive. They remind us from where we came, and of the Brothers and Sisters that have given their lives before us. Tradition should not be abandoned because it is viewed as restrictive or inflexible.

                            Progress is needed, but not at the expense of the tried and true customs that have gotten the Fire Service to where it is today. Too many of the "new guys" could care less about tradition.......that will be the greatest failing we face. We should never forget where we came from, or who got us there. We should also not allow those thoughts to limiting our thinking towards new and better ideas. Everything is a balance.......


                            In Memory of those who have passed before us, may their loss not be in vain........


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