In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.
Fire Department Safety Officers Association
People, Politics, and Problems: The Job Description for Chief Officers
Monday, April 18, 2016, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
After nearly four decades in the fire service, I still see individuals inadequately prepared for the new challenges they will face when they are promoted to a higher rank. A newly appointed officer in one of my classes recalled that I told the class that they would be facing issues that they would never have thought about and would find hard to believe. He gave me a few examples, remarking that he couldn’t make up stories like these.
Just being told to expect things that he would never have considered allowed him to better prepare his organization and himself to address the issues. He now understands that these types of challenges happen to everyone and he is not alone.
For some issues, it helps to establish a support network and determine a problem-solving method. We also talked about doing things to help prevent problems. Minimizing problems makes it easier to address those problems that are not prevented.
As firefighters ascend the ranks, they need more problem-solving skills which can be taught and improved. Just like anything firefighters do, we should strive to continually improve. The better prepared an individual is, the less likely that person is to commit an error that will set back his career or job performance. For senior officers, almost all of their significant issues will originate with people or in the political environment. Anything done to improve performance elevates the entire organization and profession.
The issues often raised in textbooks and generic presentations are not easily applicable to a diverse service. We can learn much about people and politics from the “real world.” No department has a monopoly on issues; we will learn a lot by sharing.