Lessons learnt from a day spent with the New York Fire Department

Ali UrenPeople & Culture4 Comments

Being able to spend a day in the field undertaking training with the FDNY on Randall’s Island, New York, is a rare experience. One that will always be respected and treasured. A huge shout out to a team leader Art and the generosity and kindness he showed throughout the day. 

The team were patient, kind and supportive throughout the day and showed a connection and respect for one another that is rarely seen. 

Each exercise; from climbing five flights of stairs in full kit and panicking, through to putting out a car fire and going into a smoke-filled apartment to find “babies”, the business lessons were numerous. 

So, what did hands on training with the FDNY teach me that I can use in my business life?

  • Be clear on your purpose
  • Focus on what you need to do and don’t be distracted; this means you can still look out for your buddy
  • Don’t lose your flow; once this happens it gets hard to get it back
  • Don’t panic, when you panic you are done; this means do not be spooked by what others are doing around you. When the other teams completed the smoke-filled apartment exercise before my team I did not ask “how did it go?” Not because I was not interested, but their responses would have made me doubt my ability to complete the exercise. Each of us has different realities. 
  • Work in partnership with people; many people help achieve the outcome
  • Have quiet confidence; but do not get too far ahead of yourself
  • Have a go and do not regret doing something; sometimes the opportunity won’t come again – i.e. this day.
  • Be proactive
  • Don’t talk yourself into a situation
  • Have tactics and an idea of how you can and may respond in a certain situation
  • Smarter tactics always get a better outcome; think and don’t rush just to get through an uncomfortable situation. The outcome is never good. 
  • Make a conscious decision to stop, compose and re-set; there will always be times when you need to self-reflect and re-engineer your approach. For me, it was loosening my helmet and mask a little bit, so I did not get overly claustrophobic – just slightly!
  • Own the need to pause; highly important when facing challenging situations
  • Be kind and patient
  • Avoid the need to rush, no matter how uncomfortable you are feeling; like the feeling of wearing a whole kit and mask crawling into a smoke-filled apartment. There is always a process to follow
  • Be willing to change perspectives about who you are and what you are capable of; trust those around you and trust yourself
Kiikstart Director & Founder Ali Uren with FDNY Team Leader Art

4 Comments on “Lessons learnt from a day spent with the New York Fire Department”

  1. Ali. Totally agree with all your comments above. It was an exceptional day- one I will never forget. The other thing for me which was an important reminder- continue to ask for help as you need it- there is always someone who can give you time and support 🙂

  2. Having shared this experience with Ali, I’m so grateful for her recap. The learnings Ali has documented and the appreciation expressed for the depth of what it truly takes to make a difference to the lives of others, has been captured beautifully.

  3. Some really great insights here Ali.
    What you have articulated encapsulates much my training for high-risk operations in my career with the SA Police STAR Group.

    The greatest lesson learnt is that there is generally a process for success in high-risk situations. That process can be applied in many areas of life and business, whether it’s high-risk or low-risk or just everyday decisions.

    We need to recognise the processes that work for us and our businesses.

    The more we can consciously apply a proven, reliable process the more chance we have of creating an outcome by design.

    1. Thanks for the reply Derrick and I cannot agree more with creating an outcome by design. I knew it was going to be a long day if I did not reflect and ask what I was going to do different to get the most from it and not fall in a heap.

      You are correct that each of us needs to find what works for us – it is certainly not one size fits all.

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