Examining the “fire brigade” approach

Some of you may have heard of this but for those who haven’t, let me enlighten you.

You know that colleague who rushes to you the instant you step foot in the office, when you haven’t even dropped your bag? Yes, the one that asks you for a document in a mad panic. EVERYTHING seems to be an emergency with this person. Well, that’s the fire brigade approach. And it can be lethally annoying!

Photo courtesy of http://isntlifeterrible.com

The first thing I’m thinking is: Take a deep breath. Ask yourselves some keys questions like, ‘Is it life-threatening?’ Usually, it isn’t but it doesn’t stop the fire brigade.

Recently, I bought a phone from eBay. The moment I became the highest bidder, he sent me an email asking whether I was “real” and that he had had some bad experiences so he was just checking. I was fine with this, I understood perfectly so I replied saying I was real. Then as soon as I won the auction (literally 10 minutes later), the seller emailed me again to say that if I paid that day, he would post it the next morning with special delivery. ‘Great,’ I thought as I sat in the cinema watching ‘I don’t know how she does it.’ As I left the cinema 2 hours later, I noticed another email! This time, the seller said since I didn’t pay that he could no longer send it the next day and I’d have to wait till the day after.

This person was giving me a headache. It was standard fire brigade behaviour. The problem with this approach is that I react strangely to it. I generally slow down (the opposite of what they want me to do) and start watching the person intently, looking for signs of mental illness or anti-social tendencies. I admit that I usually just see a person that is impatient and in a hurry. I have not found evidence that links this to mental illness – yet.

Since I could not watch this seller intently, and I really wanted the phone sooner rather than later, I went on PayPal and paid. Then I sent an email to say I had and casually asked what the mad rush was about, AND to please still send the phone as I couldn’t see why not – after all, it was still today!

Can you sense how exhausting this approach can be for all parties involved? There are times when this approach works – like when there’s imminent danger. But I really wish everyone would calm down. I have used this approach in the past, you’d be surprised to know but I always got a bad vibe from the recipient. And as you know, I’m very perceptive so I deliberately watched out for when the behaviour was coming and I stopped it. So if you are a fire brigade junkie, try these top 5 tips:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Consider if there’s any real cause for alarm e.g. is it murder or is it life threatening or will lives be lost?
  3. Does your victim look like they are in the mood to be hassled?
  4. Is your victim holding a weapon? If so, back off.
  5. Could you perhaps come back later when they have had their morning coffee and done emails?

Do you know any fire brigade junkies or are you one yourself? Come on, everyone knows at least one person that behaves like this. I’ll try not to judge :-).


  1. “I generally slow down” – congratulations!
    good advice:
    “come back later when you have had your morning coffee and done emails” 🙂


  2. Fire brigades have the same effect on me as they do you – I slow down in an attempt to calm them down (and probably irritate them a bit too, I guess…) 😉

    I don’t really stress out about things, so when people come running at me, full of stress and adrenaline (terrible, terrible combination), I just stare at them, wondering why their eyes are so wide and why they’re breathing so quickly. I mean, just relax a little, right? Haha.

    Great post, Kemi and fantastic tips for those fire brigaders (<— is that the right word? I dunno…) 🙂


    • Haha, you’re probably every fire brigader’s nightmare ;-). Good for you! And oh yeah, I’m adopting the term “fire brigaders”. It works :-). Things for stopping by, PCC!


  3. I always think of those persons as needing to get laid and it makes me feel much better LMAO. I know that’s wrong but sometimes you have to laugh at people who take themselves too seriously. To keep you from becoming the same way.


  4. Nice blog @ kemi u’ve blog like a real “blo grader”


  5. Nicely written post with excellent examples and tips. I do know some fire brigaders … and I tend to put myself in slow-mo as a result. I like the flow, but not when the flow isn’t going my way or my speed.


  6. I know I have deliberately staged slow-downs with people at work who come on too strong, and for whom everything seems to be an emergency. Once I had to tell a lawyer I was working with not to come out of his office to check on the progress of a job any more, because it was slowing me down. I told him, “I promise I’ll print the job the minute I finish with your edits, and will bring it into your office the second it’s finished printing.” That seemed to reassure him. It seems to me like a lot of the fire bridage folks just need reassurance that something is being done NOW! 😉


  7. wow kemi, you have just saved a sister. i know one person who breadths down my neck in this manner. but now am over it. i just relax and do things when am ready. your the best. keep it up


  8. very interesting just shared it with my sfaff today


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