The following is a guest post by Stewart Mason from Positive Paradise.
I have been a Firefighter on active duty for close to twenty years now, the last ten as a Crew Commander in charge of a team of Firefighters, and I feel it is sometimes helpful to pass on some of the lessons learned during that time for the benefit of other people.
What follows is not so much a lesson, but a real example of the benefits of having a positive state of mind, and of not giving up. If you couple that with the determination to make a difference in someone’s life, amazing things can happen.
A unique perspective
When a person joins the Fire Service all sorts of changes happen in their life and they become immersed in new experiences, some of them good, and some of them not quite so good. Part of that change is that you get to see and do things that many people will never see in their lifetime, and so for me, part of a Firefighter’s unofficial role is to relay these experiences to people, perhaps friends and relatives, or here to Melody’s readers, so that they can understand another part of the wider human experience, and perhaps gain benefit and knowledge from what was previously only somebody else’s misfortune.
One thing that you learn quickly as a new Firefighter, is that in some situations, you can never, ever, give up, and I think that on this point I need to elaborate. I will use the example of what we call an RTC. A ‘Road Traffic Collision’.
When we arrive at an RTC, it is not unusual that we have been called to the scene because someone is trapped in their vehicle as the result of a crash. Before we board the Fire Engine, we pick up the printer message on station that tells us the location of the incident and sometimes near the top of the message, are six letters that flood us all with adrenaline without exception. RTC PRT. Six letters that to anyone else would look perfectly innocent, but to a Firefighter they convey an image of injury, pain, destruction, and imminent death. RTC PRT. Road Traffic Collision, Persons Reported Trapped.
Often when we arrive on scene we find that other emergency services have tried to affect a rescue and failed. Police, Ambulance, even other motorists, have tried the tools available to them and had little or no effect. When we arrive, we assess the scene and then deploy the tools we need to do the job. And impressive tools they are, too. Heavy cutting tools, rams, spreaders – all powered by hydraulics, with forces measured in many tons. These are often our casualty’s only hope of rescue. And time is critical.
When all plans fail
But there sometimes comes that day, that fateful ‘shout’ where plan A fails. And plan B, and plan C. By the time D, E, and F have had their ineffective turn, we can rightly start to worry.
Our unlucky motorist is still trapped, and every effort to separate them from tangled metalwork has come to nothing. We cut, bend, spread, pry, lever, and twist, and still cannot create an aperture big enough to get this person out of their smashed vehicle. This impossibly frail person composed of soft tissue, blood, and muscle, is surrounded and held prisoner by a vehicle designed to protect them. Often the designers of these vehicles seem to have done their job too well, and although the occupant may still be alive in spite of terrible injuries and the horrific state of the vehicle, actually getting past the various safety systems to reach them can sometimes seem to be an impossible task.
The vehicle and its occupant may both be leaking vital fluids, and for the vehicle it’s usually end game, but for its precious cargo there is still time, and time is running out. With every minute that ticks by, there is less chance of recovery, less chance for this person to live a full and happy life, and somewhere out there are husbands, wives, parents and children, waiting for this person to come back to them, and that isn’t going to happen if we don’t accomplish our task.
As a crew commander, at times like these it is tempting to stop, stand back, and hand over the reins. To look around for someone more competent, more knowledgeable, more in wise and in control. And it is at this moment that the realization hits you like a brick.
There is no one. It’s you.
You are in charge and the fate of this person hangs on your decisions. Every choice you have made in life has brought you to this point. An unimaginable number of infinite possibilities have brought you to this road, on this dark, rain soaked night.
You look at the injured person, you get his name, you talk to him, reassure him, and you tell him it will be O.K. Your lives have intersected here, and he needs your help. You look back and you see your friends in his place, your family, your loved ones. What would you do if it was them? You would move heaven and earth to save them, and it is no different to what you will do for this man. This stranger.
So you carry on, you think hard and fast, drawing on every resource you have, every tip and technique, you try to think back to every training course, you search your mind for every snippet of knowledge you have, because something has to work. You cannot give up.
And you know what? In these situations, we don’t give up. Ever.
We keep trying, even when it looks hopeless
There is always a way, always something that can be done, it may take time, it may involve some creative thinking, but you find a way. Something comes to you, an idea, an image, a mix of suggestions that can be combined to provide a solution. The answers are always there, and sometimes, it’s when it’s down to the wire, that the solution comes to you. A flash of inspiration that will carry you forward to success. And it would have been so easy to give up! If you did you would never have known how close you were to success. Your salvation came at your lowest ebb.
This obviously works in your personal life too. I’m not saying that you must persevere in every situation you face, but when our fellow human beings are involved, we go the extra mile and even put our own personal safety at risk, because we are brothers and sisters. We are at our very core, beings of love and compassion.
We rise to the challenge
If the situation demands it, we are able to release untold levels of stamina and endurance, accomplish amazing feats, because our bodies are equipped for it. We are built to think fast, think on our feet, and come up with workable solutions, and these abilities have seen us thrive as a species since the dawn of man.
Too often we give up and turn away because we think we’re not up to the task, or that our efforts are not worthy, but everyone has their part to play. It might be your contribution that saves the day, your idea that provides the solution, your insight that helps all the others see the way.
So the next time you come up against a challenge and all your plans seem to be failing, keep going, keep trying to find a way. And if your goal is one that will benefit someone other than yourself, however small, then think like a Firefighter, stay positive, and don’t give up. The solution is always out there.
Stewart Mason is a positive thinker, futurist, and keen visionary as well as a serving Firefighter. The aim of his blog, Positive Paradise Project, is to explore and develop exciting new tools and techniques, with the aim of passing on his knowledge for the benefit of anyone who believes that tomorrow will be amazing.