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Fire Chiefs: How to Set Your Fire Department Apart From the Rest

firefighter teamwork

The process of recruiting, selecting, and retaining talent in a fire organization is one of the most difficult challenges a leader can face.  Everyone has read or experienced first-hand a story about successfully hiring a recruit and then having the probationary firefighter get hurt within his first days of employment, experience irreconcilable performance issues, or worst of all, bring discredit to the department who they were sworn to protect.  To avoid the unnecessary waste of time, money, and resources devoted to hiring individuals who will not be a good fit, a statement of principles attached to your recruitment process is essential. A statement of principles in its simplest form is a set of beliefs that define your department values and overall philosophy. These standards set by the leadership of the department enable desirable recruits to gain vital transparency on how your department sets itself apart from other fire organizations.  Implementing a set of organizational principles now will also help influence your current talent to start embodying the culture that other firefighters will want to be a part of for years to come. As always, the values that you set out for your department must be those that you hold dear and are ultimately held accountable to as well. The statement of principles you define for your department can be as varied as the individuals you set out to influence, here are a few suggestions that you may want to consider.

1) Convey Honor and Respect in Your Fire Department

The Maltese Cross is known around the world as a symbol of the fire service. The Maltese Cross has its origins going back to the era of the Crusades and is named after the Island of Malta which came to be the home of the Knights of St. John. The symbol was largely adopted because the Knights were skilled in their ability to fight fires and were bestowed with pride and honor because of it.  Leaders who emphasize to recruits the great honor that comes along with firefighting can instill how important it is to keep this legacy. Few occupations can boast of this heritage and thus it is important to convey these ideals.

2) Recognize and Value Diversity in Your Fire Company

The best way to explore and harness differences in race, gender, and nationality is to recognize them and understand how fire diversity provides new opportunities and innovative ways to solve problems.  The willingness of leaders to value in both practice and in a formal principle will demonstrate that your organization is inclusionary. As such when potential recruits look to your fire department for a possible career, they will feel a part of what your principle strives to create.

3) Instill Integrity and Honesty in Your Fire Crew

To quote Palanksi, leaders with integrity are consistent in the face of adversity, show honesty in their words and actions, and are unfailing with who they are and what they stand for.  As leaders, when we are clear about our values and principles, we can empower our subordinates to follow the same path. If we are not clear about our values and principles, we appear indecisive and devoid of the character that is effective to lead.  In the fire service, it’s of the utmost importance that we act with integrity at all times and act swiftly against those that do not share the same ethical code.

4) Encourage Professionalism Inside and Outside of the Station

In today’s fire service, all members at every rank are expected to operate and behave professionally at all times.  It is essential that you as a leader conduct yourself, on and off duty, in a manner that reflects positively on the department and the fire service in general.  In the age of social networking this is incredibly important and ‘walking the talk’ on this principle will garner respect and adherence with recruits and firefighters alike.  

5) Set the Tone for Excellence in Providing Service to the Community

A fire department should ultimately have one goal.  To serve the community with the highest level of customer service, responsiveness, and empathy to save lives and protect property.  A fire organization is customer service driven and the goal each day is to safely respond and mitigate any emergencies that arise. Leadership should set this tone and fill their organization with individuals that live this fire service motto.

6) Stress the Importance of Teamwork: The Foundation of Success

Stressing the importance that your organization is only as strong as the parts that make it up will instill camaraderie and fellowship within the firefighter ranks and to new recruits.  Teamwork is especially important in firefighting because each successful task completion usually depends on someone else completing their related tasks. An effective implementation of this principle will create valuable input and opinions at all levels of the organization as well as provide opportunities to mentor others.

7) Embrace Change and Innovation

Firefighting technologies are changing rapidly. New trends in fire apparatus technology and design emerge each year, making fire suppression vehicles engineered just a few years ago seem outdated. Firefighter’s in the mid part of the 20th century were outfitted with protective gear that consisted of a canvas coat, thigh-length boots, and a heavy leather helmet with no eye protection. This gear would now be considered primitive and unsafe.  So too would be the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ mentality. Leaders in the modern fire service should recognize the value and the need for constant re-evaluation of current practices in favor of safer and more efficient methods of completion. Moreover, this commitment to encourage progressive thinking and embracing new technologies will continuously improve customer service and retain employees.

Protecting Our Nation’s Firefighters for Over 25 Years

For over 25 years, Boise Mobile Equipment has served our nation’s fire fighters by engineering state-of-the-art fire engines. The safety of our nation’s firefighters is our number one priority, so BME fire apparatus are built to protect fire crews by shielding them from the lethal elements they encounter when battling fires. Our fire trucks are engineered for rugged off-road terrain, built with reinforced TIG-welded aluminum tubular bodies and are tilt-tested to withstand horizontal grades of more than 32 degrees. BME fire trucks are trusted by fire service organizations like CAL FIRE and the USDA Forest Service, as well as numerous municipal fire departments across the country. In fact, many of our apparatus were used to help battle the recent ‘mega fires’ in CaliforniaMontana, Oregon and Idaho.

Our engineers and mechanics are highly trained, allowing them to manufacture custom vehicles built to any specs. We understand that one size does not fit all in the fire industry, as every department and organization needs different equipment to do its job. That’s why we are known for our ‘built-to-spec’ manufacturing process. Rather than the traditional ‘cookie cutter’ manufacturing process where each truck is built the same and additional specs are charged as add-ons, BME builds each of its vehicles custom to every department’s specific needs.

BME’s recent contracts with Forest Service and CAL FIRE allow for tag-on’s that could make the purchase of your new apparatus faster, easier and far less costly.  For more information regarding the purchase of a BME fire apparatus, please contact us by phone at (800) 445-8342.



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