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Do Police Officers and Firefighters Work Well Together?

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There are a lot of rivalries out there and one we see a lot is the rivalry between police and fire.  Sometimes referred to as the battle of guns and hoses.   If you have ever been around this mixture, you probably have heard the old standard comment by firefighters “I’d rather be issued a pillow instead of a gun”.  Police will in turn say that firefighters must be crazy to run into a burning building.  It’s all in fun and we each have respect for the other, even though being a firefighter is a much smarter choice than being a police officer.

There is quite a bit of difference in the thinking of police and fire.  At a joint training session, a firefighter asked one of the police if they could do anything about the cars parking in the street directly across from each other on one of streets.  Being a firefighter driving a big truck, it was a little tight to get down the street with a car parked on each side because it only left a lane narrow enough for a single car to pass. The police were a little surprised to hear we didn’t like that because they suggested that the residents park that way.  The residents were complaining that the traffic was going too fast down the street, and the police figured leaving a narrow lane would force cars to slow down.  The narrow lane did slow down the cars, but it also made it hard for trucks to get down the street.

The development of the “Unified Command” system has made it much easier for police and fire to work together.  Unified Command brings police, fire, public works, and administrators together in training scenarios and puts us all on common ground.  Each agency uses different terminology.  When a police officer uses a term like 10-96, firefighters have no idea what that means.  When a firefighter uses a term like “hit a hydrant,” the police think they need to fill out an accident report.  Using common terminology lets us work together better.

Another difference between police and fire comes up when we park at an accident scene.  Police are responsible for keeping traffic moving at an accident, so they want us to park as far off the road as possible.  Firefighters are trained to park with safety in mind, both our own safety and the accident victims.  Ideally, fire apparatus will park on an angle and use our vehicles as a barrier between us and oncoming traffic.  Unfortunately parking on an angle doesn’t help police with moving traffic.

There are some big differences in the personalities of police and firefighters. Firefighters prefer to work as a part of a team, police officers work more individually.  One firefighter switched to be a police officer because he needed more alone time. Even with those differences, and friendly bantering we work well together, especially when things get tough.  I guess you could compare it to a couple of brothers.  We argue and fight but if a stranger steps in, we battle together.  It’s the same with police and fire, in a way we are brothers.

By John Morse

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