On various fire service forums, message boards, and blogs experience is often brought up and though to be an end all be all to the fire service. While I think experience is important, I do not think it is the only thing that matters.
Experience is one of those intangibles that really can not be measured. Do you have 30 years of experience? Or do you have 1 year of experience 30 times in a row?
I have seen guys with 15 years on not be able to pump a fire truck or get dressed out properly for a run, yet they have “15 years of experience”! You often hear that the more you do something the better you become at it, so one would assume that the more you go to fires the better you would be at it. However if you went to 100 fires and did not wear your airpack, what kind of experience did you really get? I would say that it is poor experience, but an experience your more likely to repeat if you get lucky enough to live through it. Simply put 100 fires the wrong way is still WRONG!
I heard this quote a few years ago and I really belive it to be true “Experience only keeps you from making the same mistake twice, training and a good plan keep you from making it the first time”. Again simply put good training leads you to creating good experiences, instead of just experiencing things and doing better the next time.
We have to perform preventative maintenance on our apparatus, our tools, and our equipment on a very regular basis, I look at experience the same way, if you do not perform some up keep on your experience level then you will lose it. All of the skills we use in the fire service are perishable, if we do not exercise them then the reach their experation date and spoil. Especially in a service such as this that is changing on a DAILY BASIS. My father is a 30 year fire service veteran and even he would tell you that fighting fires the way he originally learned is dangerous because things have changed.
I think this fire service equation is the key to efficient, effective, and safe fire ground operations:
Training+Experience-EGO-Complacency=Effective,Safe, and Efficient Fire Ground Operations
So do not just rest on accomplishments of your past, keep learning no matter how much time you have on the job, and do not think that just because you have got a lot of time in, that it equals a high level of experience. Leave some fo your thoughts about this topic in the comments section, and as usual spread the word about the blog!