CHANGE DILEMMA: ‘Why are firefighters who run into burning buildings afraid of change?’


“Why is it,” a Canadian fire and rescue officer said, “Why is it that firefighters who run into burning buildings afraid of change?”

A friend had asked him this and he admitted he was unsure what to reply.

The comment was made at Fire Editor’s #reimagine event in Birmingham where senior officers were debating big change that is coming down the path. Mergers with police forces are on the cards. So is closer collaboration. My role was to talk about the importance of communications in all this but the line about fearing change struck a chord. Not because I think firefighters are inherently resistent to change. Or because they don’t have concerns. Far from it.

It struck a chord because of my own regular soapbox about IT people and what I often say about comms people – myself included:

“Why is it that so many IT people think the everything that happened after the Commodore 64 is dangerous and should be resisted?”

Or what I often say about comms people:

“Why is it that people whose job it is to communicate are so poor at communicating?”

Why do we often fear change when other parts of almost our job would terrify another person?

How can we change that?

Picture credit: Adam Levine / Flickr

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  1. In a fire fighters context change in business is about survival. I’ve witnessed businesses hire the turnround guy at the point where it’s too late. Hiring the expert early to force change in a cozy stagnant or zombie business is about survival. It’s also about known comfort zones. A burning building is an environment where the fire fighter is so drilled it’s just not as scary for them as you and me.
    I once had a military man run my warehouse. When I said he was going to need to move us to a facility considerably bigger without a break in production he said it was the single most stressful thing he had ever undertaken.
    More stressful than combat..
    Force change and communicate regularly throughout the process would be my advise.

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