One of the things that keeps our firemen safe is a system called the PAR, or Personal Accountability Report. It is put in place so that at the scene of a fire, communications and reporting are clear and the expectations of every firefighter are clear and consistent. In an situation with so many variables, you want to tightly control as many factors as you can. Being personally accountable for a consistent set of items that you can control is one way to do that.
Here is a short definition of the PAR example from Elgin Fire Department as shared by the IAFC.
Basic concepts of accountability
And now I am thinking outside the fire service and into the lives of our fire wives. You face many fires of your own. Some of them have controlled systems around them to help you manage them. At work, you probably have systems in place that are repeatable and well understood to handle customer service complaints, or disciplinary actions if you are a teacher, or special codes if you are a nurse. But what about all the life that happens outside of those structured environments?
- What about when your child talks back to you?
- Or your husband drops a truth bomb on you that feels like a kick in the gut?
- Or your hot water tank bursts (on a duty day)?
- Or your neighbor goes ballistic over your dog digging in her garbage?
- Or the insurance company isn’t covering that expensive ER visit?
Do you have a PAR system in place to handle these fires in your life? Or do you freak out?
You are a Fire Wife! Pull Yourself Together!
I’m going to guess that most of us have not thought about it in this context. And I’m going to guess that while you can manage lots of fires and challenges in the structured part of your life, when you are in your chill zone, just living day to day, is when you are most likely to hit that freakazoid mode and respond in a way that just fans the flames.
I’ve seen some women who can wrangle giant groups of kids through a girl scout camp or VBS get all worked up and freak out over a possibly bad medical report. I mean seriously freaked out as in can’t function, don’t want to drive themselves to the doctor, uncontrollable tears. And then it’s nothing. I’m not saying that isn’t scary. What I’m saying is that this woman has handled way bigger fires in other areas of her life so why is she crumbling now. Seriously. Pull yourself together!!! (Love that scene from the Incredibles!!!)
I’m not telling you to have a robotic response to every situation that comes up in life. First of all that’s not possible. Second of all, that’s not life. It’s meant to be filled with excitement and emotions. And guess what? Even when our firemen are responding to a scene of a fire, there is a lot of excitement and emotion. They just try to avoid entering freakazoid land where people get hurt. And having a PAR setup helps that.
Let me suggest some things for you to think about as you create a mental PAR for the fire wife life. Here are some items you might want to include in your PAR:
- Who is your team? Who are your go to people for when you are facing a fire?
- Do you let this team carry you into and out of the fire? Or do you just skirt around issues and take bits and pieces? Who are you letting dive into the details of your life?
- How are you in contact with your team? Online connections like we have in the fire wife sisterhood are good but what about face to face or by phone?
- What tools are you using? Texting, chatting, emailing, phone calling?
- What mental tools are you using? Meditation, prayer, Pushing your pause button, taking a time out for mama.
- How are you communicating your situation? Are you being vague? (Are you vague-booking? “Today was a really challenging day. Thank goodness it’s over!”)
- If you are communicating with your team throughout the fire, how do they know you are in trouble? What’s your mayday signal?
Think about it Incredi-Girl. You’ve totally got this.
(If you haven’t met them yet, the Fire Wife Sisterhood is an incredible accountability partner for the fire wife life!)
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