Firefighters: Stand Down from Negative Thinking


Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Photo Courtesy of Landon Jensen

Safety Stand Down is a joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). The event is coordinated by the IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section and the NVFC, and is supported by national and international fire and emergency service organizations as well as health and safety-related organizations and agencies.

Held during the third week of June each year, the 2020 event will take place from June 14-20. Fire and EMS departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety Stand Down in order to focus on training and education related to this year’s theme. An entire week is provided to ensure all shifts and duty crews can participate. Here is this year’s Stand Down

Stand down from complaining. We all complain. Just like poor eating habits or lack of exercise, it’s an easy trap to fall into — and even harder to get out of. Complaining provides some short-term pleasure, but just like eating unhealthy foods, it has negative effects over the long term. What you put into your mouth (bad food) can be toxic and dangerous to your health. Conversely, what comes out of your mouth (bad thoughts converted to words) can be dangerous to both your personal and professional life.

How can you tell if your complaint “pump” is stuck on and flowing continuously? Take a look at these five warning signs:

  1. You always see the tank as half empty. Size yourself up: Do you see the flaws in everything? When others are positive or excited about something, are you the one to throw cold water on the plan? Situational awareness (or self-awareness) is key. It’s important to see things realistically, including challenges or negative aspects of situations. But if that’s ALL you see, it’s like seeing only two sides of the fire building. The sooner you become aware of and accountable for your thoughts, the sooner you’ll quit pumping negativity out.
  2. Others are sizing you up. When people make comments such as, “You’d complain even if you won the lottery,” take note. Whether they’re serious or joking, there’s a message you shouldn’t ignore.
  3. They’re staging two blocks out. When people keep their distance from you, excluding you from group events or not reaching out regularly, the reason could be your negativity. Though you might not want to hear what they say, it’s best to ask why. And remember: Don’t become defensive. The point of the conversation isn’t to defend your behavior. It’s to hear the other person out and consider whether you need to make a change.
  4. Like a promotional exam, your friends are competing with you. Look at the people you’re surrounding yourself with. Are they constantly complaining too? Are they Negative Nellies like you? Glass half-full? Sometimes, birds of a feather really do flock together. But this is not the “promotion” you want. If your friends are reinforcing negative thoughts, it’s time to rethink your relationships.
  5. CAUTION: Fire line — DO NOT CROSS! Do you see life as an emergency scene, with constant challenges and dangers? Or do you see it as an exciting opportunity every day? Despite the challenges we all face, life is not a chronic problem that needs to be fixed. It’s within our control to accept the way things are and see the opportunities for positive change.

Do a quick “stand down” with these five warning signs. As with our annual firefighter safety stand downs, we should periodically re-evaluate where we stand and whether we need to make changes. The rewards are waiting. It just takes a small dose of optimism to help break the cycle of complaining and make life exciting again!

About Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as fire chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif.