Let’s face it, no one dreams of being second-due on a fire. One of the best parts of the job is being first on scene and going to work. Or better yet, beating another crew into their own first-due territory. That’s MAGICAL! Well, at Next Rung we’re ok with being “Second-Due”. A little bizarre, right? We’ll explain below.
Just to clarify, we aren’t talking about showing up on a fire scene. We are talking about providing help to departments with personnel who are experiencing something outside of “normal” with their mental health (maybe it’s the fact that they’re more irritable than normal, feeling depressed, drinking more heavily, have a lack of desire to do the job they once loved so much, questioning their purpose in life, or whatever else may be weighing on their mind). We know many departments have active Peer Support and/or CISM teams that are utilized. That’s fantastic and applauded by us. However... yep, there’s a however thrown in, WE MUST understand the need for the second-due crew. Without them, there’s no one to fill the gaps. While the first arriving crew is extremely important and vital to the outcome of the task at hand, there’s only so much they can do and handle on their own. There are gaps that must be filled in order for the scene to continue to flow smoothly. In this case, we are more than ok with being “Second-Due”, because we know that many departments already have a “First-Due” crew in place and waiting for that next “fire”. But again, even when you have a front line resource, you should always have a secondary resource in place and ready to go when the need arises.
What we continue to see are gaps that need to be filled. No, we don’t view ourselves as the “know it alls” or “masters of the craft”. We’ve only been at this for approximately two and a half years. We still have a lot to learn about this monster we are trying to tackle. Though with each day and with every conversation, we continue to learn more. We hear, but more importantly, we listen to those who seek our help. We’ve learned that even in departments that have teams to serve their people, there are still personnel falling through the cracks. At times, it’s not the departments fault. Perhaps they offer outstanding assistance in the area of mental health help, but nonetheless, they still have members falling through the cracks. But WHY?
One of the biggest reasons why we see members falling through the cracks is because the first due resource (the team being deployed by the department) is the only resource. That’s a hard position to be in and an impossible battle to win. There are many reasons that play into why it’s impossible. Here’s a list of five that we continue to see. Reason #1: Believe it or not, there are people who do not know that their department provides them with any type of resources to help in this area. How can they utilize what they don’t know they have? Reason #2: The person seeking help doesn’t feel comfortable reaching inward due to fear that it could make it back to their crew. “But we’re completely confidential” is what you’re probably saying if you serve on a team mentioned above. We know... but again, we are addressing things that have been brought to our attention. Reason #3: They’ve tried the offered resources and the offered resources failed (i.e. EAP, professional counselor, chaplain, CISM team, or Peer Support team). We aren’t here to point fingers, because we know that we could very well be a failed resource for someone at some point, if we haven’t been already. It would be rather prideful for us to believe otherwise. Reason #4: The provided resources aren’t user friendly. Offering multiple ways of contact has been a huge advantage for us. A majority of our conversations start via text or social media messages. It’s easy for people to be covert, talk throughout the day, and gather their thoughts through a written message. It gives them time to collect their thoughts and reply at their convenience. And last but not least, Reason #5: The person seeking help wants a fresh perspective. A new set of ears on the situation can provide more help or a reiteration of what they’ve already heard. A second opinion can do wonders for people. Also, there are things you may be frustrated about within your own department, and you need to vent to someone on the outside. We are here for those conversations, too. Those things can weigh on your mind, but we know once you get it off your chest, you’re refreshed and good to go. Whatever the reasons are, the truth is that one resource is NOT enough. That’s why we provide secondary resources on our station posters and website. We know that we are not the only resource, nor should we believe ourselves to be.
We understand that we are all territorial when it comes to our first in, our crew, and our department. However, don’t be so territorial to the point that you may prohibit them from getting the help they deserve. Don’t believe as a department you are the only one who can help your people. However, be a catalyst for your people and help create change, no matter what it looks like. If help comes from within the department or outside from a secondary resource, it doesn’t matter. The point is, they received HELP. Help is all we care about. So, if we can help you, your crew, or your department, please let us know. We don’t mind being “Second-Due”, as long as everyone goes home.