Out of My Mind: Continual Improvement

By Richard Marinucci

Like most, I watched the coverage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma from a safe distance. I was once again amazed at the power of Mother Nature. Another thing that continues to amaze me is the unselfishness of the members of the fire service. I realize there are other responders making sacrifices, but I am close enough to the folks in the fire service to know that they put the welfare of their communities above themselves and their families. Besides those who stayed in harm’s way and continue to work throughout the storms there are many other responders who traveled from other areas to offer assistance. They were then asked to stay in less than ideal conditions and work long hours. None complained. I also know of some who dipped deeply into their own pockets to help people travel to the areas where assistance was needed. Now if we could only elect all of these people to Congress, maybe we would finally have people in place with more interest in the country than their own personal wellbeing.

Of course, many times when there is some great work being done by those in the fire service, someone uncovers a perceived misdeed. I recently saw an article about a news investigative team that uncovered a firefighter using department money to attend a conference but staying at a more expensive resort hotel. First and foremost, this issue is between him and his organization. I am guessing everyone involved knew of the situation and were OK with it. But on the flip side, it is a case like this that make travel to conferences more challenging for many. When policy makers and citizens read or watch stories like this, it gives them ammunition to deny participation. In the end, organizations have controls and should use them. If they don’t mind what happens, then it should be no one else’s business. Departments must participate if they want to get the latest information. Not everything is hand delivered to your doorstep.

Teamwork is absolutely essential on the emergency scene if the best possible outcome is to occur. The same holds true during nonemergency activities. This has never been more true than today when the expectations for more services have increased, and information available is coming at a faster rate than ever before. I don’t know if any one individual can keep up with the continual inflow of information. It seems we are blessed and cursed. We have more support and data but maybe not enough time to take it all in. That is why it is so important for organizations to have as many people engaged as possible. It is also imperative that individuals and departments participate in regional, state, and national associations and events. I don’t know how one maintains currency without attending some conferences and workshops. There are way too many for an individual to attend, so the workload must be shared. 

In my travels, I often ask how important politics and marketing are to the fire service. The response is that they are very important. On a scale of 1 to 10, I will hear anywhere from 6 to 10. I follow up with a question about how much training and preparation the typical fire service professional has, and the answer is little if any. If an organization is to maximize its effectiveness, it must have the appropriate resources. Without people, apparatus, equipment, and training, quality service cannot be provided. We all know that others control our funding. The policy makers decide how much of the local, state, and national budget is allocated to the fire service. Only through engagement in the political process and marketing our product to those who need to understand its value to the community can we expect to improve our lot. We need to seek out ways to improve ourselves and everyone in our business if we want to get better results. No one gets a blank check, and we must work toward gaining a better understanding of the process so that the results get better. 

RICHARD MARINUCCI is the executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department in 2008, a position he had held since 1984. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering editorial advisory board member, a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and past chairman of the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In 1999, he served as acting chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months. He has a master’s degree and three bachelor’s degrees in fire science and administration and has taught extensively. 

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