1. The condition or quality of being a brother or brothers.
2. The quality of being brotherly; fellowship.
3. A fraternal or trade organization.
4. All those engaged in a particular trade or profession or sharing a common interest or quality.
5. The belief that all people should act with warmth and equality toward one another.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of emergency services is the sense of support, camaraderie and community; the “BROTHERHOOD” of responders.


I hope that any reader will see that this term is meant to be inclusive, not exclusive. In other words “Yes, brotherhood includes sisters too.”

Brotherhood extends beyond boundaries of age, sex, pay, service and locality. You can meet brothers in emergency services from anywhere in the world, male and female, paid and volunteer, union and non-union. In fact, this brotherhood extends to pretty much anyone who wants to join, provided they understand what brotherhood means and are willing to give of themselves before asking to take. While the exact definition might be slightly different for everyone, for me brotherhood is the unspoken acknowledgment between those of us who take pride in working to achieve excellence in our chosen profession, protecting life safety in our communities. The bond that those of us in this brotherhood share means that I would welcome, work side-by-side with, joke with, dine with, or come to the assistance of any one of these brothers as I would any member of my own family.

While the term brotherhood is probably most commonly associated with the fire service, I believe that brotherhood is common to all branches of emergency services. Pride, honor, duty, dedication, heritage and sacrifice are not unique to a single type of uniform. However that does not mean that I would automatically consider every other emergency responder to be my brother. Why is brotherhood prevalent in some services, but not others? I won’t claim to know the reason; I’m sure there’s more than one. I believe it begins with a lack of personal accountability and a want to get your own wishes before, and sometimes at the expense of, those with whom you work. Some emergency responders choose not to be a part of this brotherhood. I’ve seen people in all branches of emergency services who are simply there for the paycheck. They want to come in, punch a clock, get through the shift, punch out, and go home. While, to a degree, I can understand the desire to do that, I believe that emergency response demands more than that. It bears repeating: Being an emergency responder demands more than just showing up for the minimum to get your paycheck. That may be ok in some professions, but none that involve lights and sirens. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my stations has a post office next door. On more than one occasion I’ve suggested that perhaps some should apply there as they might be more suited to that work.

On the other hand, some people want to be part of the brotherhood, or believe that they already are, even though they don’t understand what it means. Yes, often these are young people, but we’ve all seen plenty of immaturity close to retirement age. I have thought about this a great deal during the development of a program that I teach called “Motivating Millennials”. One of the first things we discuss in that program is that many of the problems attendees want to see addressed are not unique to a young age group. While it may be true that we are seeing a trend away from brotherhood in the “next generation” of emergency responders, we’re missing the mark if all we’re doing is suspiciously eyeing every new recruit that walks through the door without also eyeing up some of the people who are already on the job. While it may not happen as often as we’d like, those people coming through the door for the first time are usually carrying a great deal of energy and enthusiasm with them. They may just need your help to focus it in the right way.

Before this begins to sound like a rant I should make it clear that I’m writing this as a call to action.

Brotherhood demands pride, honor, duty, dedication, recognition of heritage and sacrifice of self. It is both the hardest and the best part of what we do. As a reader of RescueDigest I’m sure you know that already. You may think about your workplace and wonder why it doesn’t have that brotherhood, or perhaps you wonder what happened to the brotherhood that you once knew was there. One thing that I can tell you with a virtual certainty, the brotherhood is still there where you work, you just have to look for it and maybe coax it out. I’m going to help you.

First, whether you want to strengthen the brotherhood that you already enjoy in your service, or you want to introduce it where it has never been, it begins with you. Make a conscious effort to be there for your peers and co-workers; whether that means simply buying a coffee for someone on a cold overnight shift, or helping to mentor a newbie when others only complain that he or she “isn’t good enough.” You know your department(s) better than I do. Maybe you’ll need to stand up for somebody when everyone else is enjoying tearing them down. Maybe you’ll have to let go of an annoyance or an insult, knowing that in the big picture, it shouldn’t really matter. Maybe you just need to quietly “be there” for somebody for reasons that you don’t need to explain (to me or anyone else). Maybe you’ll need to do all of these things, but I’m going to ask you to do one more thing as well. I’m going to ask you to go out and recruit some new members. Find someone in emergency services, maybe someone you work with, and help them realize the benefits of brotherhood. Share your passion, lead by example and help them to understand. Show others in your service and in the services that you work with, regardless of their badge or uniform, what it means to actively help make your emergency service family something that your blood-family, your mom and dad, your son or daughter, can be truly proud of.

So what can you do? You can’t force anyone to join the brotherhood, nor should you try. My suggestion is to use the resources that we’ll be posting over the next couple of weeks to show people the benefits of membership.

Website size up:

We’ll be sizing up two (count ‘em two!) web sites at the same time, because these two guys both promote and live brotherhood in a way that we should all aspire to.

RescueDigest Resources:

We’re going to give you the resources to get you started and then, we’re going to strive to share the sense of brotherhood to others in emergency services with those who do not know it, or with those that may have lost it along the way.

Goal of the Week:

We’re not just here to talk the talk, we also want to walk the walk. As with other GOTW, we’re going to do all we can to practice what we preach. We’ll share our stories and suggestions as we go along, and we hope that you’ll share yours.

Of course, no amount of resources, articles, tips or tricks are as important as leading by example. Nowhere is that more important than for those of us in leadership positions. Simply putting this editorial in writing has given me renewed commitment to the brotherhood. I hope that reading it has done the same for you. Finally, with your example I hope that you were able to encourage others to join our brotherhood. The cost is work but the benefits are extremely high and we can all only benefit from more emergency responders feeling that sense of pride, honor, duty, dedication, heritage and sacrifice.

About romduck

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder, author, and educator with more than thirty years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, hospital healthcare systems, and private emergency medical services. Rom is a career fire captain and paramedic EMS Coordinator for the Ridgefield (CT) Fire Department and director of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. Rom holds a master’s degree in public administration, is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program, and is the recipient of the NAEMT Presidential Award, American Red Cross Hero Award, Sepsis Alliance Sepsis Hero Award, and the EMS 10 Innovators Award. Rom is the author of "Duckworth on Education," as well as chapters in more than a dozen EMS, fire, rescue, and medical textbooks and over 100 published articles in fire and EMS magazines. A member of the NAEMT Board of Directors, as well as other national and international advocacy and advisory boards, Rom continues to work for the advancement of emergency services professions. Contact Rom via