FRIDAY FORUM: The Work Journal

In the Spring of 2004 I began documenting every legitimate fire or technical rescue I responded to. After each incident I would write up my own report, recording the incident and working through what I learned.  Almost 20 years later, I’m very proud to say I haven’t skipped documenting a single fire or rescue, and I’m filling my 4th notebook. This practice has been instrumental in my growth as a practitioner, and my “Work Journals” have become among my most prized possessions.  I assume I must have found the tip in some book or magazine, but alas I do not have anyone in particular to thank.  Whoever you are, thank you.

In my mind, a job isn’t “closed out” until I’ve written it up.  This practice has incredible tactical benefits as it allows me to document lessons learned and track my progression, positive or negative, in areas I seek to improve.  But perhaps more important is the mental component. The benefits of journaling for processing trauma are well documented, and among the many day-to-day jobs, my journals also contain incidents with mass fatalities, personal injury, missed searches, Mayday fires, and a LODD.  I cannot begin to describe the positive impact of getting events on paper, and often feel a legitimate weight lifted once my journal entry is complete following a particularly critical incident.

What exactly do I write? My structure follows this format: 

RUN: What it was 

DESCRIPTION: Size up and concluding state

OBJECTIVE: What my tasks were on scene

PERSONAL ACTION: Detailed account of exactly what I did

PERSONAL +: What I did well

PERSONAL -: What I did poorly

LEARNED/IMPROVED: What did I learn from the job or what did I improve upon from the last time

OVERALL SCENE: Aside from the my personal actions or the actions of my unit, how did the the entire incident go

RIT: If it was a fire, how would we have executed a firefighter rescue based on the given attack scenario

I’ve often recommended the practice of a Work Journal, and I plead with anyone who will listen to make this a part of your professional practice.  If nothing else, it provides a historical record of the best job in the world. 

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