Sunday, November 6, 2011

Don't ignore the girl.

There is one problem that is common, that I have had the whole time I have been in the fire service.

The men won't listen to me.

That is mainly due to the fact that I am a girl, and that I am young.

And you know what? It is frustrating. 

Back when I took Firefighter-1 in my county, we had 8 girls including me in the class. It was a big group. I was one of the youngest in the class. At first the guys thought I was just another girl, and that I wasn't serious about this. They would think "Oh how cute, a girl trying to be a firefighter". And it pissed me off, many times we were told to do something. I tried to tell the rest of my company what we needed to do, but they wouldn't listen to me at all cause they all had their own ideas. And we would get yelled at because we didn't do it right.

Then one night that changed. I got tired of it and not being heard, when I knew I was right. And I stood up, and made them listen to me. And I ended up proving I knew what I was doing and got their respect. By the end of the class, the guys in my company trusted me and my judgement. They would listen to me, and we all worked well as a team. We ended up being the best company in my class, because we had a clue and worked together.

After that class, the problem came back. As I trained with other people who didn't know me that well, and they always treated me like I was just a young girl who didn't have a clue. I will never forget the time I was told to "Get a man" to help lift a patient. I was pissed. Sure I am small, sure I am a girl. But you know what, that doesn't change anything really. I can still keep up with the guys.

Recently I took the Farmedic class, a great class that I would highly recommend to everyone. On our final day, we got to practice cutting "patients" out of farm equipment. Our patients you see, were old fire hose and tape. I was working with a group of young guys, all from the same fire department. At first I suggested an idea, and they wouldn't listen. They kept doing all these ideas, and weren't even letting me do anything hands on because they were all so involved. I kept suggesting it every once in a while when the latest plan had failed. At one point their chief and the instructor heard me suggest it, and told me to speak up. But still the guys didn't listen.

Finally, we had gone through 5 plans. And they finally listened to me. And guess which plan worked? Mine. It took us about 15-20 minutes to get our patient free, when it would have taken 5 minutes if they had listened to me.

Afterwards we were all standing together, and were talking about what we had learned. The instructor at one point just asked the class "So what did you learn today? Don't ignore the girl" And the guys all agreed.

And that was our lesson for the class. Don't ignore the girl. Because you know what, sometimes we do actually know what we are talking about and know more than you. Might be hard to believe, but it is true. So give the girls a chance, and listen to them when they suggest something, instead of blowing it off. Cause maybe sometime, they will save your ass.

Till next time, whenever that might be.

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