Hump Day S.O.S.
B y D a v i d R h o d e s T here is an abundance of fire service profes- sionals who use the term aggressive to describe themselves, their crew, or their department. This is typically meant as a reference to interior tactics upported by vertical ventilation when operating at structure fires. The word aggressive conjures a level of pride for some and liability and injuries for others. Aggressive means different things to different people
within our business, so I thought it would be interest-
ing to look at the definition and interpretation from
Aggressive is defined as an adjective with the following description:
1. Ready or likely to attack or confront; characterized by or resulting from aggression.
“He’s very uncooperative and aggressive.”
**synonyms: hostile, belligerent, bellicose,
antagonistic, truculent, pugnacious, combative,
two-fisted, violent, macho, confrontational, quarrelsome, argumentative, warmongering, warlike,
2. Pursuing one’s aims and interests forcefully,
sometimes unduly so.
“An aggressive businessman.”
**synonyms: assertive, pushy, forceful, vigorous,
energetic, dynamic, bold, audacious, in your face,
DYNAMIC AGGRESSIVE (SMART)
Right off the bat, we should recognize that a majority of the synonyms have a negative connotation. I
would bet my money that those who use the term
expecting it to have a positive fire service meaning
would contend that “pursuing one’s aims and interest
forcefully” best describes what we want aggressive to
mean. We would also associate with the synonyms
assertive, forceful, vigorous, energetic, dynamic, and
bold instead of those with a negative flair.
I have always thought being an aggressive firefighter
meant that you were physically fit enough to perform
at a high level, you understood fire behavior and build-
ing construction, you understood your capability and
were competent with your equipment, you understood
your limitations, and you made smart decisions that
allowed you to adapt to the situation when needed.
This allows you to eliminate some of the risks associ-
ated with the environment. Now that’s a pretty tall task
to accomplish, but to me that’s aggressive. It means
that because I can process what is going on and apply
knowledge, equipment, and strategy, it allows me
to reduce risk, not eliminate it, but I can manage it.
Isn’t that what risk management is? All this is done to
provide a potential victim the best chance of being rescued, and when that is accomplished, or the conditions
are deemed unsurvivable, then we reassess and adjust
our tactics based on managing the remaining risks vs.
gains. We may not look at it in those terms, but that is
what we do.
To have that same interpretation of aggressive, you
would have to be physically fit, understand fire behavior
and building construction, know the capability of
your equipment, be competent with the equipment,
understand your limitation (and that of your crew), and
have the ability to make dynamic fireground decisions
while understanding the strategy of rescue. If you don’t
possess these abilities, then you naturally have a different
interpretation of aggressive. I say it that way to make you
think, because most of you taking the time to read this
probably do have those traits and skills, but many in our
business do not. In fact, many do not have those traits
and skills for a host of reasons that include organizational
dysfunction, mission creep, a lack of focused leadership,
and bad hiring or recruiting practices.
The problem is not always only the responsibility of
the organization. There is also a personal responsibility
for lacking the knowledge and skills. If your organization is not providing adequate training for you, go get
it somewhere else. For so many though, it is enough
to wear the shirt, carry the badge, hang out at the firehouse, and hope someone will know what to do when
we get there!
MACHO AGGRESSIVE (DUMB)
There are those in our business who enjoy the status
and respect that come with the uniform but may
not live up to the lifelong pursuit of professionalism.
They, however, want to be like you, and they want the
respect that you have, so they also tout themselves as
aggressive firefighters. Many of them are very tough
and fearless; unfortunately, they practice based on a
war of attrition strategy while you operate more like
You Bet We’re Aggressive!
A look at the different uses and interpretations
of the word aggressive in fireground tactics