Within the past year, the elected officials to two Minnesota cities have voted to alow the fire department to have, serve, and consume alcohol in the fire station. In at least one case, these actions were taken against the advice of their city attorney and was in conflict with the recommendation of the legal counsel at the League of Minnesota Cities.
In my travels, I continually talk with fire service leaders who tell me about the struggles they have with being viewed as professionals, with being on equal footings with their police public safety partners, and with their councils supporting their efforts to progress their departments.
When I read headlines like these, I cannot help but wonder what impact it has on our profession. It doesn't matter if you are fully paid, part-time, paid-on-call, or volunteer, there is an expectation of professional service when we are called into action. If someone's house is on fire, or if their loved one is having a medical emergency, the expectation is that you arrive quickly, be well-trained, and offer competent service.
It's not too much to ask that the firefighters and EMTs who come to our aid be sober... in fact, not only sober, but be completely alcohol free.
So I don't sound like an anti-alcohol advocate, let me make it clear. I am not opposed to people enjoying a drink, or two, or more. What I am opposed to is firefighters who enjoy a drink, or two, or more, and then respond to emergency calls for service from a customer who expects, and deserves better.
We will never earn the respect we so yearn to have from our residents and elected officials so long as incidents like this make the news headlines.
Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO