Recently I read an article in the FIRE RESCUE MAGAZINE, “Political Realities of Being a Fire Chief” written by Dennis Reilly. There were some very interesting points that he expressed about today’s fire chief and fire department. The days that the “fire department was a sacred cow” has left our society. Today’s chief not only needs to be a good tactical leader, the chief needs to be a person that is professional in presenting the department and being proactive with the government officials and the public.
Reilly says, in order for a chief “to live up to the mandate of protecting their community … the chief needs to have very specific sets of skills and understanding” how to represent the department. To some of our citizens a fire department is simply considered as a drain of their tax dollars. That is until as firefighters and/or ems we are needed by these people. According to Reilly it is important that we differentiate between ourselves and the politicians. We as public servants it is important that we always remember that we are in the limelight of the public as “professionals” that can be called upon anytime that our neighbors are in a situation that they can no longer help themselves. When meeting with the public and government officials, we should appear as professionals in your uniforms or department apparel. We should always presented ourselves in a positive posture that will educate those we serve that we make good informed decisions in our responses and in our spending of tax payer dollars.
If we look at history, fire departments were originated by insurance cooperatives to protect lives and property of those in the cooperative areas. Today it is no different in that having tenders/tankers, engines and aerial devices serve as a response insurance to an incident that needs mitigation to a safe and less depreciating incident than left unchecked.
When we as responders isolate ourselves from dissenting voices, which is the easy way, we only help to make the public and our department polarized. Educating our public, having positive relations with the public and doing the job to the best of our ability will build support.
Reilly goes on to say, “…building alliances goes well beyond just showing up at a meeting every once in a while. Leaders of our fire service must be proactive in seeking opportunities” to build these alliances. Some of these opportunities I believe is being actively involved in making the public aware of our department’s accomplishments and those of our members. There are some that wonder why the law enforcement writes about incidents that we responded to and were instrumental in mitigating the scene to be safe. Informing our “customers” helps our departments when it comes to budgets and having safety issues addressed by our political friends. Every position in the fire service is important, every position is looked upon as an “expert” therefore it is important that each of us looks, acts, and responds with professionalism to calls for help.