One of my colleagues, Michelle Brigman, climbed a 110 story building this weekend to honor the memory of 343 FDNY firefighters who died back on 9/11, a dark, dark day in American history.

I didn’t know that fateful day that I’d be involved in the fire service some 9 months later as VP of Product Management at E-ONE, then the #2 manufacturer of fire/rescue vehicles in the North America.

I got to work with firefighting heroes everyday for 2 years. With the exception of working with our corporate parent, Federal Signal, it was about as much fun as I ever had in business.

One day, our CEO arranged for all his VPs to put on the full outfit (turnout gear) and go into a hot building at a fire college. I was encouraged not to do this as I’m a diabetic. Diabetics don’t do well in high heat. I had to do it. I didn’t want to miss out on the experience.

My pupils were huge after I got out the heat. One of my colleagues was really worried about me. EMTs were called to come check me out. Yes, I wanted to escape my body from the heat I had just experienced. Turnout gear is air tight. So, you sweat big time in it. But, this is a feature, not a bug. A firefighter would suffer severe burns if the gear exchanged hot air as his/her perspiration would get quite hot.

I know the experience they gave us was modest compared to what firefighters would typically experience. But, I’m grateful for experience. I was soaking wet. I think I drank 3 gallons of water that day.

One tidbit I learned and confirmed with probably more than 100 departments: it is very rare for people firefighters assist or save to ever say “thank you” for what they do. Most tell me it happens less than 1% of the time. Can you imagine?

If a firefighter ever helps you or your family, please say “thanks.” It will put you in the 1%.

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Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, author, and blogger based in Silicon Valley. He's been in the front row for the birth and evolution of Silicon Valley, the innovation capital of the world. Since 1992, Dave Gardner focuses on making the complex simple around people, process and technology. Dave is the author of Mass Customization: An Enterprise-Wide Business Strategy - How Build to Order, Assemble to Order, Configure to Order, Make to Order, and Engineer to Order Manufacturers Increase Profits and Better Satisfy Customers.


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