A Personal Ventilation Profile:
How does one ‘vent’ when the pressures of life become intense?
As a firefighter, we understand the definition and application of ventilation. We are taught that during a fire there are several types of ventilation that can occur such as: Normal, Unplanned Ventilation, Tactical Ventilation, and Anti-Ventilation. We have witnessed the effects of when we vent too early, we vent in the wrong place, or we don’t vent at all. The fire can grow exponentially and get out of control. The fire can be directed towards an unintended path causing more damage. Or the fire can be shut down to a decay phase just waiting to explode when given the air it needs.
In our lives, have we not seen the same consequences when we vent improperly? We blow up suddenly, in the wrong place, and on an unintended person who ends up getting burned by our pent up wrath. This leads us to see that we as individuals can have a personal ventilation profile. By defining our profile it will help guide each of us through the process of how we can better deal with the fires of life. Our end goal can now be to understand our personal need for ventilation; so we may know what is healthy and what is not.
As firefighters, we relate through our experience and our stories. Let us examine some possible examples of personal ventilation profiles:
Normal Ventilation: This involves the exchange of air inside a structure with the outside air. As a fire develops, this exchange provides to support combustion and allows some smoke to escape. This air inside the structure has a significant impact on the fire development.
An individual who ‘vents’ normally allows the amount of air needed in and allows the ‘smoke (stress)’ to escape. This is a good example of proper stress management.
Unplanned Ventilation: This occurs when occupants leave a door/window open or the fire causes the window to fail. And in some cases, firefighters upon making entry can create undesirable changes in the vent profile. Wind can be a significant factor by increasing the air supplied to the fire and or creating draft effects.
An individual who suffers from an ‘unplanned ventilation’ may have left a door open to their past that because of their haste to escape the intensity of the fires of life. This person may have a sudden failure of one of their ‘windows’ in life.
By definition, a window is an opening in a building (our life) that allows in air, light, or both. Our windows in our lives are the things that are most valuable to us. For example: our families, our relationships, our health, our jobs, or our friends. When these ‘windows’ fail, as in a fire, we vent in ways we haven’t anticipated. We suffer outbursts, breakdowns, and rapid changes in our temperament that often injure others that are in our ‘flow path’. We convert to a uni-directional flow and they are in the exhaust.
These failures are often intensified by the ‘winds’ in our lives that tend to blow in just at the right time. The old expression, when it rains..it pours.
For example: If someone recently suffers a divorce and then their boss announces they laying off 10 employees and you happen to be one of them. Then the next morning, your car breaks down followed by your sanity breaking down.
What about Tactical Ventilation and Tactical Anti-Ventilation? They are efforts performed by others to help control the fire while well coordinated suppression efforts are being conducted. In our lives, we need to be able to allow those that care about us to help us ‘tactically’ address our problematic fires that often burn for long periods unchecked. When we tactically address the fires that stress us to the point of flashover we begin to identify the triggers that set us off and mitigate them before any undue harm is caused. This can be accomplished through many different means but the key to this is to be consciously aware of the our stressors, our weaknesses, and to have a means of releasing this pressure in a healthy way.
In order to be understood we must first seek to understand. With that being said:
What is it that has kept us from allowing others to ‘tactically vent’ our stress?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7). As firefighters we take pride in our job but if we are not careful our pride can be our downfall. When our pride gets in the way, we refuse to reach out for help or even admit that we have a problem. We are the ones others reach out to and we feel as if we have failed when we can’t manage our stress on our own. This is not a sign of weakness but a sign that we are human. We all need someone to talk to, someone that understands, and someone that has been through our same struggles.
In these moments that we have suffered, what do each of us think would have helped us through it all?
Have we not seen the power of teamwork in our profession? We do nothing alone, so why is it that we feel that we should suffer alone? Our brothers and sisters
Where do we draw our strength from in trying times?
Who do we rely on when others fail us?
As leaders in our homes and in the fire stations we must begin to learn the value of strength in fellowship, the power of petition, and the comfort of allowing another to bear our burdens with us. Whether you believe as I do or not, know that there are those who care more about your life than you may care about your own. How is this so? Because they have been where you have been. Because they have felt your pain and they know the comfort that God provides. They know that God has placed us in others lives to lift them up, to bear their burdens, and comfort them with the comfort we have received from God Himself.
They know their personal ventilation profile and how to properly vent when the stress of life becomes too great. Let those who have suffered and learned from their pain help you today.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries