By Chief Sam DiGiovanna
Verdugo Fire Academy/Lexipol Consultant
We talk a lot about safety in the fire service. Remember when the term "culture of safety" first started getting used? There was a lot of resistance at first, but slowly we started to realize safety wasn't a four-letter word.
Staying safe is a good thing when we're talking about avoiding physical injury or exposure to carcinogens. But playing it too safe can backfire on us. A fear of taking risks can make us conformists. We go along with the crowd, hesitant to try new things or do the same things differently. Even when we recognize the opportunity for improvement or growth, we talk ourselves out of it, afraid of failure or of disapproval.
Recently I read a story inspired by John 12:23-26:
Imagine two grains of wheat lying on the floor of a warm and cozy barn. One day, the farmer comes in and tells them, "I want to take you out of this comfortable barn and plant you in the earth. I'm going to place you in the cold ground and cover you with soil. It will be dark, and you will die. But I promise that you will multiply and become very fruitful."
Well, you can imagine what happens in the story: The first grain of wheat refuses the offer, choosing to remain comfortable and warm. The second one takes the risk, focused on the promise of the future harvest. Within a few days, the grain of wheat has become a sprout, which in turn produces more grains. The farmer plants them and the harvest multiplies. Year after year, the process is repeated, until the one grain of wheat has millions of descendants.
And the grain of wheat that stayed in the barn? Well, he's comfortable, I guess, but he sure hasn't grown or multiplied.
I started this article by mentioning how often we focus on safety in the fire service. Well, we focus on risk, too: Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a little, and risk nothing to save nothing at all. This isn't just a good motto for a fireground; it's a pretty good guide for life!
What are some of the risks you should consider taking so you can be like that sprouting seed of grain?
"Never let your fear of the unknown and things being too difficult make your choices for you in life. One of the saddest lessons in life is finding out that your fear made the situation worse than what it was and a braver person stole the dream you gave up on."
– Shannon Alder
Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. He also is a consultant for Lexipol Fire Services.