How to Shake Off the Mistakes
I’ve been on the fire department for over a year now. Another group of recruits has come through our academy since then, and they’ve been out running calls for months. Another recruit class is currently in session, and I’m even starting to help with their training. I feel like I’ve come a long way.
It’s always when you feel that way that life comes back and hits you upside the head.
Checking our extrication tool on the engine a few weeks ago, I noticed it was low on oil. I popped a bottle, opened the port labeled “oil”, and filled it until I could see my flashlight bouncing back against the fluid level about an inch below the opening. Great, problem solved. I started up the engine, and it started blowing smoke like a coal power plant.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nothing gets the entire station’s attention so completely as someone making a fool of themselves. My buddies gathered around me as I tried to figure out what had happened, chuckling to themselves. One finally asked if I had checked the other side of the tool for oil ports. Sure enough, there was a port there too, and it had a dipstick as part of the cap.
Confused, I asked why there would be two places to put oil into the tool. Laughter erupted as the captain pointed out that the one I had used was a drain. By putting a whole quart of oil in there, I’d flooded the cylinder completely.
I had to drain the oil out onto the sidewalk, run the tool until the excess oil burned off, bring out the oil away and spend the next half hour cleaning up the mess I’d made for myself, and then refill the oil tank on the tool the right way, all to the tune of my fellow firefighters cheerful commentary:
“Oh, so you’re ready for your red helmet, right?” (probies like me have orange, firefighters have red)
“Guess we know who’s doing traffic control at the next accident!”
“Want me to show you which side of the shovel to use for scooping up that oil-away?”
Take note: this is not an isolated incident. Like most people, I try my best every day, and from time to time I screw up. In this business, you’re going to get a hard time for it, I’m sorry, that’s life.
Now, in the face of that, there are some right and wrong ways to respond. When you screw up, which you will, keep the following 5 tips in mind.