Inspired at the age of sixteen to become a Fire Explorer, Christopher Cane is a motivating force for those hoping to join the industry. Born and raised in Key West, Florida, Christopher had the opportunity to attend the Explorer Program sponsored by his local fire service agency. The introduction to the program fueled his interest for his long-term career goal. After more than fifteen years of industry experience, his passion for his work has never dwindled.
Christopher is a visionary for the fire service industry. As a forward-thinking individual, he takes pride in searching for innovative solutions, from organizing training evolutions to determining the value of a specific software or a piece of medical equipment. He provides optimal training solutions for firefighters and paramedics on the new equipment. He is consistently in the process of learning and is open to sharing his knowledge industry wide.
During his free time, Christopher has an interest in aviation and flies as often as possible. He is a private pilot with an instrument rating. He has had a love for paddle boarding and enjoys traveling and hiking with his wife.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
The Fire Service has a program known as the Explorers aimed at high school aged people. At age sixteen, I had an opportunity to participate in the program. It was a really good introduction and accurate representation of the industry. I learnt basic training and it really helped me decide the trajectory of my career.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day on shift was different from the last few years in the training division. On shift, I get to work early, to prioritize the things that we have to do, versus what I want to do. While in the training division, I would also arrive early to have some quiet time to plan and prioritize my day. I organized training evolutions, whether it be at our facility or going out to stations, recertification training, and other requirements. I stayed on top of new training techniques and new pieces of equipment. The logistics for what needed to be accomplished were worked out on an annual as well as month-by-month basis.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life through research. For example, if we were anticipating the purchase of a new piece of medical equipment, we have to clarify if it is needed, and if it is going to add value. We also have to determine if we have something that may already accomplish the task . We research and provide a benefit analysis to determine the value of this new piece of equipment. Ultimately, if we decided it would be better than what we already had, we go ahead and purchase the equipment. The next step is to produce a training program. We get help from the industry experts, the manufacturers, and the representatives of the company, for added training and techniques, tips, and tricks. Last, we start training firefighters and paramedics on the new equipment that will make their jobs and lives better by bringing added value, enhancing their skills, and making their service easier.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend I am seeing that excites me is that for a long time, there was a reluctance to bring new technology into the fire service. It has been slow as an industry overall, whether it be Bluetooth, or digital equipment. Over the last five or ten years, the industry really started opening up to adapt and integrate specific training technology. One of the last purchases we made to help with training was a couple of pieces of equipment that were digital screens, which would stimulate fire activity, but allowed us to change how the screen reacted, on different classifications of fire. It gave an active target for the firefighters to go through the training and fight a simulated fire as opposed to just spraying a nozzle hanging out a window. It literally allowed them to hone their skills, learn positioning, fire attack, and practice fire attack skills. The technology is expensive, but we could show the value of having more intense training available.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit I have is to look for new techniques, whether it be for efficiency of skills or new ways of doing things. One example I can give on that is when it comes to vehicle collisions. The way vehicles are built today are different from they were built in the 70s, 80s, or even through the early 2000s. Our techniques, even though the basic fundamentals of the job have not changed, the techniques on how to accomplish end goals, need to change and adapt to technology changes. For me to acknowledge the need to look for new techniques, look for new efficiencies, helps me be more open to learning new things and not getting stuck in old habits.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to focus more on myself, my family, my wife, and personal relationships, especially when you’re young. When you are first getting into a career, a lot of people tend to immerse themselves almost completely and fully in their work. It leads to a pretty poor work life balance. I think maintaining that and recognizing that is really important, and especially important for maintaining good mental health, good family dynamics, and relationships on that personal side. So just focus. If I could go back, I would tell myself to focus more on me, my family and my personal relationships and not be so singularly focused on my career.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
One of my focuses when I conduct trainings specific to operating apparatus, is that I am very particular with my students on being accurate when we are pumping a truck. When we are utilizing handlines and trying to put out fires, we need to ensure that we have enough water to eliminate the fire. This means accurate pump pressures. While some people may simply guess, I think it is important to get it right the first time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I believe it is critical to be open to learning new things. As humans, we get comfortable with what has worked for us in the past. There is always a better way to go about a specific task that may be quicker, safer, and in some cases, easier. I never close myself off from learning something new.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that helps people grow is asking for help, whether it be suggestions from coworkers or other industry professionals. It’s okay to ask questions and perform extensive research. Seek out experts from across the country, and don’t be afraid of change. Techniques will vary, so some other region may have some useful advice when encountering various issues.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One thing I perceived as a failure at the time was the time I was passed over for a promotion. I scored at the top of 12 or 13 candidates. The top three scores were only separated by four points total. The scores were remarkably close. And I was passed over for that promotional opportunity. I took it pretty hard, got upset, and took it as a failure. This is where my wife is and has been a role model for me. She helped me refocus. The next time I went through the process, I did even better and was able to successfully achieve the promotion.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As far as the business idea, one industry void that exists right now is that there are a lot of educational requirements, training requirements, certifications, and licenses requirements. As a result, there are a lot of examinations, whether it be practical tests or written exams. Many people struggle and have too many attempts at these tests multiple times before they are successful. The National Registry exam for EMTs and paramedics is notoriously difficult. I think there is a lot of opportunity in that avenue for test preparation. There are a couple of companies that do exist out there for preparation, but we need it for all exams, national registry, state exams, practical testing.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My wife and I recently purchased inflatable paddle boards. It has allowed us to get out and do more water activities. We invested in two of them and now we’ve got something that costs us literally no more added money to go pursue a very enjoyable activity. We get out on the water and the paddles are quiet, so you are not scaring away water life. We mostly use them in shallow water, which allows us to see different fish and animals as well. So that was a really big and enjoyable purchase.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
There is an app available now for iPhones that can be used in fire service from this company called Handtevy. It is a system created to help make pediatric emergency medical calls less stressful for the providers. The app was specifically designed to make pediatric calls, less stressful, it is still applicable to adult patients. I utilize it quite a bit on the adult side, and it is second nature when I have a pediatric call. They have taken all that information and made it very accessible. It allows you to link the reporting program you use, and it transfers all of the intervention information. it makes all procedures run smoother, less stressful, and anxiety. I recommend it to everyone.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The one book I would recommend for anyone interested in becoming an instructor and helping to teach is Telling Is Not Teaching by Mike Thompson. The outstanding concepts he teaches relate to any instructor student relationship.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is from Chris Walker, who was a captain in Fort Wayne, Indiana, an instructor for that fire department. The quote is, “A good firefighter knows ‘how’, educated firefighters know ‘why’.
- Never stop honing your skills
- Stay current and open to change.
- Always ask questions and share information.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.