Here’s a question for you: You have received a product or service and you were satisfied with the result and what you paid. The provider comes back to you and asks, “I need more resources to give you this service or product so will you pay me more money?” I doubt it. What in the world does this have to do with the fire service? Recently I have had discussions with members of the fire service. In all cases there is tremendous pride in their service and department, and rightfully so. When asked how they are doing they respond, and I am paraphrasing, that they take care of business. They resolve whatever issues are presented. I then ask what they need. They tell me staffing. Looking at many of the organizations, I agree most are understaffed, some grossly. But when I continue the discussion by tying the two comments above, I get a puzzled look. I ask them why should a taxpayer pay for more staffing if everything is getting taken care of? I rarely get a reasonable answer. But I do think any answers need to be reworded. Policy makers don’t want to spend more money if everything is “being taken care of.”
Firefighters know how to de-escalate an emergency and return to service. As the incident winds down, personnel, apparatus and equipment are returned to service. Departments, if they haven’t already, need to develop a plan to return to pre-pandemic operations. No doubt departments are doing things differently than they had been. Some things have suffered, including comprehensive training programs. A plan should be in the making to look at how the organization will get back to the critical parts that are essential for a department to deliver the services expected. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The national conferences are returning, the National Fire Academy is accepting applications, and other training programs are becoming available. Now is the time to get organized and return to the many programs that were important but put on the back burner due to pandemic restrictions. Hit the reset button now and realize there are some things that will never be the same, but some need to return.
What have you done to prepare for that next promotion that you want or possible assignment? It is never too early to prepare. You need to know what the next job expectations are and seek out not only the necessary credentials but also meaningful education and training. By that I mean courses that will be practical and apply to the job you will be assuming. You also need to know what comes with the job. I see too many people who are not prepared for the next step and start off in a hole. If you are ready and properly prepared, you can hit the ground running and be more successful from the start. Talk to others in your organization and ask specifically what types of preparation would be best. Don’t just worry about the standard certifications but those that will develop you and allow you to grow as a professional.
Do you have an exit strategy? There are some firefighters who have figured out their retirement down to the day and can tell you how long. They have a plan as to what they may do after leaving the service. There are others who retire but don’t have a plan. They will find something once they have the free time. But, retirement brings its challenges and having an idea as to what you intend to do is important for your physical and mental health. Some elect to find another job, others pursue hobbies and some do charity work. It is not so important as to what you will do but that you will do something. Over the years, those with no real plan struggled the most. If you are getting close, maybe even within 5 years, think about what you would like to do. Here is hoping for a long and prosperous retirement, whenever that will be for you, and you outlive the actuarial studies!