The Wildland Fire community borrows frequently from other areas, but has established a culture unlike any other in the response field. As part of that culture, we have a certain way of communicating, even to the point where cliches specific to Wildland Fire have developed.
Now, the definition of cliche is this:
...an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.
There are two cliches that seem to be part of every wildland fire briefing ever: Have a safe day and We'll see you back here for dinner (or breakfast if it is a night crew briefing).
In my younger days, I would stand out in the briefing and hear people on the stage say these things and I felt they were just checking a box. I definitely felt irritated and thought the statements were trite. However, as I advanced and started serving on IMTs, my view changed. I realized some cliches serve a purpose and such is the case with these.
When you spend time around C&G and agency administrators, both of whom employ our two cliches regularly, you see that the meaning has not been lost. I have yet to encounter anyone--no matter how wooden of personality or how much of a personal jerk--who does not realize and appreciate what we ask firefighters to do and what the consequences would be if there is a serious accident or fatality.
Briefings are meant to be brief and we can't expect every briefer to be able to individually articulate what it means to send people into a dangerous and dynamic environment, what it would mean if anyone was injured or killed--what it would mean to the families, the home towns, the crew, the home unit, the wildland fire community. One of my ICs once said the worst part of the job is that you have control for 20 minutes during morning briefing and then all you do is wait for the next 14 hours and hope no bad news comes. It's almost overwhelming for some.
So, it is no surprise that we have developed shortcuts of expression to save time during the briefings and to relieve the briefer's burden of developing new ways to express tough thoughts. In this sense, they are not cliches, but touchstones of the wildland fire culture. They convey much more than the literal phrase. The real, the original, the deeper meaning is there if you listen.
Copyright © Jim Whittington, 2018, All rights reserved. Academic use approved with notification and attribution.
Occasional thoughts on incident response, crisis communications, wildland fire, and other topics.
Docendo disco, scribendo cogito.
Copyright © Jim Whittington, 2019.