Fighting Fires for a Day

Matthew Weiss,EO New York
Article by:
Matthew Weiss
EO New York

A few months ago, I, along with fellow EO New York members David Crombie, Brad Dubler, Tim Enright, Nat Milner and Richard Shinnick, participated in a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. New York City’s bravest welcomed us to their state-of-the-art fire academy on Randall’s Island, where for an entire day we experienced what it was like to be a firefighter. It was called the FDNY Challenge, and it was an eye-opening experience that still makes the hair on my arms stand up whenever I think about it.

We started early in the morning. Donning full gear, the six of us walked in the footsteps of a firefighter. We extinguished car and high-rise fires; pried open a vehicle to extricate two civilian dummies using jaws-of-life tools; broke down doors with an ax; removed a dummy from beneath a subway train; and rappelled to the ground from the roof of a six-story building. It was a fierce day of fortitude, but we all agreed that the hardest exercise was locating and carrying to safety a 180-pound dummy firefighter from a pitch-black, smoke-filled building.

In addition to gaining a newfound respect for those who risk their lives fighting fires on a daily basis, this experience gave us valuable leadership and crisis-management training. For example, I learned that when you’re faced with a challenge (especially under intense stress), you have to tell yourself: “Stay calm. What do I need to do next?” This got me through some really challenging exercises.

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