Rambling Thoughts—Don’t Stop Innovating

By Rich Marinucci

As someone who writes for magazines, I sometimes have trouble coming up with a topic. It is part writer’s block and part remembering what I had written before. This can be broadened to consider whether or not there really are any new topics left to discuss. This does not include new inventions or technological advances but more in the area of administration, management, and leadership. There is so much written about these topics that it is difficult to think of anything that has not already been said.

So, I have come to the conclusion that there will not always be any new revelations, but the purpose will be to think of different ways to explain or discuss various issues. I can remember many instances where a light bulb went on based on how something was explained to me. I had heard it before, but it never took hold. When the message was presented differently, it made sense to me. Of course as a parent, I find this happens often. When I tell one of my children something, they don’t get it. When their sibling or friend says the same thing, it instantly becomes fact. So, it is important to keep going, knowing that not everyone will come to the same conclusions and many approaches are necessary to distribute the message.

Innovations that are truly unique are rare. Inventions that significantly change the world do not occur on a regular and routine basis. But once something new is introduced, there are many people working to make it better. Take the automobile as an example. The idea of a motorized vehicle started long ago. Since its introduction, there have been improvements in reliability, comfort, safety, and capabilities. But, it remains an automobile. So, do we really need to invent anything or take what we have to make improvements? Instead of looking for new ways, improve what we have so it becomes more reliable, safe, efficient, and effective. Except for the truly inventive minds in our industry, most should focus on continual improvement.

One piece of firefighter equipment comes to mind relative to this discussion. That is the personal alert safety system, PASS device. I must admit I was not a big fan of this device when it was first introduced. It often activated when it wasn’t supposed to, firefighters didn’t turn it on, and it generally generated noise that made communications more difficult. Over time, these devices have improved to address most of the concerns and they meet the initial intention most of the time. Even still, firefighters must use them properly and make sure that they are operating in a way that increases the level of firefighter safety. Since the device was invented and introduced, there has been continual effort to improve the product and address its shortcomings. In a relatively short period of time, an idea to improve firefighter safety has gone from concept to nuisance to a reliable and needed piece of equipment.

Don’t Stop Improving
I think the fire service has done a good job of seeking improvements to existing systems. Often we will hear someone say that the fire service is “200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress.” I don’t believe this. There are too many examples of significant improvements being made. It probably is more appropriate to say that not enough of the fire service takes advantage of advances or delays changes that should be made. There are many departments that are progressive in their approach to the service and have demonstrated the ability to adapt to the changing world. But with the various means of communication available today, more organizations should be aware of advances and improvements and should be looking toward more ways to improve. Because the world changes with or without our approval, you are either getting better or getting worse; you are not staying the same. Every organization has the choice.

RICHARD MARINUCCI is chief of the Northville Township (MI) Fire Department. 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 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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