Tag Archives: fire officer

The Chameleon Fire Officer

Mentor, Menace or Mediocre…Make Up Your Mind!

by John Alston

 ChameleonA chameleon is defined as any one of numerous Old World lizards of the family Chamaeleontidae, characterized by the ability to change the color of their skin, very slow locomotion, and a projectile tongue; or a changeable, fickle, or an inconstant person.
Having worked with Firefighters and Fire Officers from several departments, over many years, I continue to hear the same complaint and praises.  The issue is consistency.
The Chameleon Fire Officer: (The one who changes and blends with his/her environment as a defense mechanism.)  Is slow to react.  They can be characterized as fickle, moody and unpredictable.  They may display one aspect of their character as Firefighters; then a different one as a Fire Officer.  At best, they will make one change and you have to live with it; or at worst be one way today and another tomorrow.  I hear this assessment, over and over and over again.  Indecision and inconsistency in the fire station is bothersome yet tolerable.  It can be deadly on the fire-ground.
Let’s look at the three: Mentor, Menace or Mediocre.

MENTOR:

Graphic by Malcolm Alston

Have you adopted the character traits, persona and practices of a mentor.  Someone who is approachable, learned, intuitive, genuinely concerned for the positive growth and development of others?  Are you a good listener?  Do you constantly strive to stay at the top of your game (by study, taking courses and by information sharing); so that you are a valuable and knowledgeable resource to subordinates, colleagues, your superiors, and the public?  Do you help, aid, and assist all members of your service, where-ever you encounter them?  Do you seek genuine opportunities to encourage others?  Do you attempt to turn negatives into positives?

Being a mentor is a selfless act.  It is a continuous process. It is a transparent process. It takes a strong commitment and a lot of work!

MENACE:
Have you adopted the character traits or persona of a Menace?  Are you perceived as one? Let’s face it –many members of our profession are “Type A” personalities. That is a good thing, at times and a horrible attribute at others.  I have met officers that bring hidden and no-so-hidden agendas to the workplace.  Why?When this happens, it clouds their judgement in all aspects of the work environment.  It causes other members of the service to shut down and avoid them.  One of the problems with that is many times those Menacing Officers are in key positions in the organization. LOL.  There is not enough couch time to unpack the psychological “issues” that created this “character”; just know that they are out there.Now, when I say a “Menacing Officer”, I don’t just mean the type that is always lewd, crude and obnoxious.  I don’t even limit that monicker to the one that is “in your face”.  I have met some of the quietest menaces you could find. Their modus operandi is calm, cool and just as menacing as officer who is “out there”.  These quiet, nondescript, “Closet Menacers” (<–poetic license, instead of “Menaces”) have their own way about harassing coworkers and subordinates.  They apply discipline and work assignments, disproportionately.  They play favorites and the “ends against the middle” (Classic divide and conquer).  Some of whom you would think stepped right out of the pages of General Sun Tzu’s, “Art of War” or Niccoli Machiavelli’s, ” The Prince “.  Cold, quiet and calculating.  Yet, a Menace, none the less!
MEDIOCRE:

Have you adopted the attitude, character traits and/or persona of a mediocre officer.  Status Quo is sufficient. It’s the Guy or Gal at the top who caused these problems and only they can fix them.  “Morale is low!”  “You really can’t change things, anyway.”  “Why Try?”  “There’s no benefit or penalty for attempting to improve things.”  “People are people.”  “This new generation of Firefighters are the worst ever!”  “You just have to go along to get along (and get ahead).”  “Things are just fine the way they are.”  “I set my expectations low and that way I am rarely disappointed.”  “Same Circus, Different Clowns!” “I’m just here for the paycheck.”.  Sound like anyone you know?

The Mediocre Officer is indecisive or, at worst, nonchalant. They are not engaging.  They skate by, with everything.  This person takes on the personality trait that they have already arrived or have risen as high as they can.  His/her characteristics are “Laissez-faire” (indifferent, hands-off or do the bare minimum).  One definition of laissez-faire is literal, “let it/them pass”.  Meaning let it along.  Don’t get involved.  Don’t interfere.  Don’t make changes.  Don’t make decisions.  Do you know someone like this?  Is it you???

 Which One is Worse?

Please use the comment section to explain.

Copyright 2015 John Alston. All rights reserved

The Mississippi Fire Academy

This video will give you an aerial vantage point of the Mississippi State Fire Academy. You will see our campus and many of our live fire burn props. Portions of this video were filmed with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision +, a UAS we use used to capture reconnaissance and aerial size-ups.

Box vs Out-of-the-Box Thinking

box        John Alston

Box Thinking

A few years back, I had a great opportunity, during one of our planning sessions, to take notice of a particular “world” view held by a facilitator. The session was an emergency management development group.  It was sponsored by a dear friend and was facilitated by two other individuals.  These persons were not from our agency or group.  They were not familiar with its culture and underpinnings. They led us on different approaches to arrive at some of the decisions that we had to make.  That was the great part!  I like learning new methods and challenging some ideas that may have outlived their usefulness.

However, the not-so-great part was that, as the days went on, I got a sense that one of the facilitators may have been harboring a little negative, possibly condescending, attitude.  It was noticeable, in his comments and gestures.  I tried to shake it, because anyone can have a bad day (theirs or yours).  First impressions, although are usually “spot on”, can sometimes be misleads.  You have to give presenters a chance. People who make presentations to others know that you have to warm up the room, get a read and then proceed.  You may have to change methods, tactics and directions to get your room to “buy-in”. But I digress!  Okay, this guy bothered me. The feeling I had just wouldn’t go away.  As the days went on into multiphase sessions, that sense increased.   I thought, “Hey, this guy doesn’t know us.”.

Then, it happened:  One of my colleagues made a suggestion.  It was a great idea, by the way. It was based on sound past practices. It seemed feasible.  It was succinct.  But the response from the facilitator was, “Well, you’re just not an “Out-of-the-Box thinker”.   I then saw my colleague retreat and shut down.

You’re just not an out of the box thinker? I thought to myself; the way that statement was delivered was condescending. It seemed as if he was saying to the person, “You’re not that creative”, ; “You’re not that bright!, “You’re not intelligent enough.”, “You’re not that flexible.” You’re rigid. You don’t know what we know.  YOU’RE NOT THINKING!   I took umbrage to that and I didn’t like it either. 😉

When you tell someone that they’re not an out-of-the-box thinker,  it shouldn’t be a negative.

I find that “Box” and “Out-of-the-box” thinkers are both needed in planning situations and emergency management.  In our day-to-day situations, Box Thinkers are very clear on their roles and responsibilities. They are clear on the “space” they occupy.  They can prove to be invaluable, under many circumstances.  They have full knowledge of their position in the organization and are detail oriented.

If you’re going to be a “Box Thinker”, though, be sure to handle everything within the box.

I know it may seem like an abstract analogy but follow me for a little while.  Be clear on where your box fits into the entire operation.  Know the relationship and responsibilities that your box has to the other boxes adjacent to, below and above your box.

EXAMPLE: If you’re a company officer and your “box” is being on the Ladder Company; “Handle everything within your box!  If your task, that day, is to perform search & rescue then handle everything in your box!  If you’re assigned to be the supervisor, on the third floor or division three of the building, then you are responsible for everything within that box.  Fire suppression, search and rescue, ventilation, salvage, pre-&post- control overhaul, etc.  Know the  authority, resources and tools that are necessary for the box, completely.  If your box is ventilation; then you should know everything there is to know about Ventilation: positive pressure, negative pressure, hydraulic, mechanical, natural, vertical, horizontal.  You need to know when to apply what and at what appropriate time.  Handle everything within that box.

When you’re an out-of-the-box thinker it means that you have the ability or the wherewithal to step outside of the norm; or you just decided to think of things in a different way.  That doesn’t make you a better thinker than the people who do think within the box.

EXAMPLE:  If your box is OPERATIONS, at an incident, and you are the Operations Section Chief…handle everything within your box.  Assign the necessary tasks, establish the correct groups, place them in and on the proper divisions.  Call up the appropriate resources.  Provide for accountability and safety measures.  Monitor progress.  Be clear on your communications, directions and requests.  Staff all required positions.  Use checklists.    And…and…and…

MASTER YOUR BOX!

Additionally, to be an “Out-of-the-box” thinker means that you can take the conventional methods, the tried and true methods and apply them in a different way.  You may have the ability not use the conventional methods at all and still realize a successful outcome.  You know the standards.  You just look at the situation in a different way. You may want to come up with a different or alternative means to perform the same task.  You may very well look at things completely different.

In Emergency Management, when you think outside of the box you are still utilizing box thinking to formulate your idea.  You have to.  Think of it as a Stringed Quartet vs. a Jazz Quartet.  It’s still music.  One is very structured and the other more improvisational and yet they still utilize some of the same instruments, chords and notes to produce the final sound that they desire.  It can even be the same song or piece of music.  Very often the stringed quartet can make improvisations or perform different interpretations to the classical pieces.

“Out-of-the-Box thinking” is no greater than “Box thinking”, when it’s done completely. It just means that we have different approaches to achieving a successful outcome..

I think they’re both great and I that any individual can possess both characteristics of a “Box or Out-of-the-Box thinker.

Which one are you and why do you think so?

13 Career Crushers

No Matter the Industry!
No Matter the Industry!
The 13 Career Crushers are universal indexes.
My take:
  1. Revenge is a dish best served cold or not at all…
  2. Treat others better than you want to be treated
  3. Use lists, take notes and a calender (planner)
  4. Keep your personal business “PERSONAL” – Manage
  5. Understand and practice your organization’s mission and goals
  6. Take care of your self; work, refresh and rest
  7. Stay current with industry and technology trends
  8. Stay trustworthy and transparent not C.Y.A.
  9. Respect your superiors, if not the person the position
  10. Truth crushed to earth will rise again
  11. Aggressive and/or Vociferous alignment or posturing is never good.
  12. Cutting corners is still cutting something
  13. Stay on your “A-Game”.  Know your job and everyone elses.

What’s your take???

The Art of Leadership

True Leaders:

Many aspire to Leadership, but few understand its true nature.  Leadership is not an ego game.  True leaders have vision and place the goals of the institution above their own interests.  True leaders realize the importance of the people working with them.  True leaders are not only open to good ideas, but also have the courage to implement them. j. donald walters

 A few years ago, I (@j_alston) read a book by J. Donald Walters titled, “The Art of Leadership“.  At the time, I thought it was a short and simple read.  Oh how wrong that turned out to be.  Since the first time I picked it up, I have been carrying it with me for about 11 years.  It continues to yield great insight and confirmation.  It has also been published under the title, “The Art of Supportive Leadership“; How very telling that title appears to be.  It tells me that, being a leader, is not always the idea of getting support from the people you work with; but moreover being supportive of them as well.  It is reciprocal. Their is a flow of energy, ideas and support; that is continuous. Symbiotic, as it were.

There are so many books on Leadership and Management.  It is sometimes hard to choose the right ones.  There are books that are specific to Fire and Emergency Management Services; and then there are those like this one that provide those critical nuggets of wisdom; those bursts of clarity that guide us, ever so gently, towards the right path.


Some of what I got from it:

  • Understand the Nature of Leadership (It’s about people, “DUH”!)
  • Lose the Ego (Easing God Out)
  • Have Clarity of Vision (Knowing who you are and your purpose)
  • Never lose sight of the goals of your institution or organization
  • Recognize the importance of the people working with you (Collectively and Individually)
  • Be Supportive
  • De-prioritize your own personal ambitions, as they relate to others and your organization
  • Be open and receptive
  • Give value to the opinions of others
  • Have the courage to implement action and change course when necessary

WHERE THERE IS RIGHT ACTION…THERE IS VICTORY.

– Sanskrit Proverb

more to follow…

Be the Thermostat…Not the Thermometer

 thermo

by John Alston

(podcast “PLAY” button below)
 When talking to Fire Officers I find that many, sometimes, fall into two basic categories:
“Thermometers” and  “Thermostats”
Sometimes they find themselves, in one of two of these categories, through no fault of their own.  Through discussion at meetings and by gauging the types of questions that they ask; or positions they assert; I wonder how they arrived there.  Is it the “climate” where they work?  Maybe the orientation or initiation they received.  I surmise that  long before they rose through the ranks, their indoctrination, association and/or training dictated their category… and they can’t shake it. Was it osmosis???  The old nature-nurture debate???  No one can give a definitive answer.A more pertinent question: Is there a system or process in place to move Fire Officers into one of these two categories?  Is there a process to change them from one category to the other?
Thermometers:
Thermometers (definition – an instrument that reads or measures temperature) read the temperature in the room and display there findings. They do not initiate their own actions.  They wait until something happens and then display themselves. They change constantly, based on other conditions.  Thermometers are sometimes fickle or, at best, just register/report/represent the “ambient” temperature.  In other words, you don’t get a true read.  Sometimes there is a delay in their response. They do not initiate anything.  They react and respond to outside influences.
Thermostats:
Thermostats (definition – an automatic or manual device for regulating temperature), on the other hand, are changers. They have the ability to effect and affect their environment.  They can cause us to become warm or cold.  They can alter the atmosphere.  They can make us/others uncomfortable or motivate us to change.  They can have a negative effect, at times. But if they are set right, they continue to do their job correctly.  Thermostats can handle the heat and the cold, seamlessly.  The good ones do their job efficiently.
Which One Are You?
more to follow…

Copyright 2015 John Alston. All rights reserved.

“Congrats”, Dr. Onieal!

Dr. Onieal

Congratulations, Chief!

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former Jersey City Fire Chief and native son Dr. Denis Onieal, who is now Superintendent of the National Fire Academy, has been selected by the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s Board of Directors as the recipient of the 2015 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award. The presentation will take place at the 27th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner on April 16th at the Washington Hilton, in Washington, D.C.

Established in 1998 and co-sponsored by CFSI and Motorola Solutions, the Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have been proactive at the local, state and federal government levels to improve and advance fire/emergency services and life safety issues. Representing a cross section of the fire and emergency services, previous recipients include chiefs, instructors, career and volunteer leaders and public safety advocates.

Dr. Onieal has served as Superintendent of the National Fire Academy since 1995, providing leadership to advance the professional development of fire service leaders of today and tomorrow. Through his efforts, the National Fire Academy has greatly expanded training opportunities for fire service personnel and enhanced NFA’s executive, management, and all-hazard community response and risk reduction curriculums. Working closely with State fire training agencies, NFA courses are now offered through every accredited State training agency in the country. Under Onieal’s leadership, the NFA curriculum has been completely revised to include equivalent college credit recommendation and continuing education units for all resident, off-campus and on-line deliveries. For the first time ever, fire degree programs across the nation are following a standard curriculum and syllabi, and work in close cooperation with State fire training agencies. This combination of standardized training and education is the foundation for professional status for the fire and emergency services.

Acting as a catalyst to improve the fire service, Dr. Onieal continues to write articles and deliver presentations across the nation on professional development within the fire service. His work in this regard has reached thousands of fire service personnel, providing them the encouragement to pursue their academic studies in addition to their fire service training. While rising through the ranks of the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, he pursued his own professional development opportunities which eventually lead to a Doctor of Education degree from the New York University in 1990.

“The CFSI Board of Directors congratulates Dr. Denis Onieal on being selected as the recipient of the 2015 CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award,” said Bill Jenaway, President of the Congressional Fire Service Institute. “He embodies the passion and dedication that the late-Mason Lankford demonstrated in making the fire service a safer profession. We look forward to honoring Dr. Onieal at the 27th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner.”

For additional information about the 27th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars Program, visit the CFSI website at www.cfsi.org. This event benefits the mission of the Congressional Fire Services Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy organization designed to educate members of Congress about fire and life safety issues.

Contact: Bill Webb (202) 371-1277

Catch a quick podcast I was fortunate to grab with my friend and mentor, Dr. Denis (CHIEF) Onieal.

UPDATE: Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern

Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern
Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern

March 31–Fresno firefighter Pete Dern remains in serious condition and faces skin grafts and weeks of other intensive treatment for burns he suffered Sunday when a roof collapsed at a garage fire and he fell into an inferno, the medical director of the Leon S. Peters Burn Center said Monday afternoon.

“He remains stable but in very serious condition,” said Dr. William Dominic. “This is a very serious, certainly life-threatening burn.”

Dern, 49, had inhalation injuries as well as second- and third-degree burns to about 65% of his body, Dominic said. Dern was rushed Sunday afternoon to the burn center, which firefighters helped build in the 1970s.

Dern is on a ventilator to help him breathe. He has had one surgery and is looking at many more, with an operation scheduled for Wednesday to remove dead tissue and do temporary skin grafts. “This could be a very prolonged situation,” Dominic said.

Dern was leading several firefighters across the roof to provide ventilation for the safety of attack crews when the roof collapsed, the fire department said. A video posted on Facebook that captures Dern’s fall into the flames has received national attention.

After falling through the garage roof, Dern was rescued by fellow firefighters within minutes. That was critical to his survival, Dominic said. “No. 1 was getting him out … as quickly as possible,” Dominic said. And the protective firefighting clothing Dern was wearing reduced burning, he said. Without the protective gear: “It’s highly unlikely he would have been alive long enough for someone to help him out.”

Dern’s clothing and gear have been saved, Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis said. Members of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are in Fresno to investigate the work injury, she said. But she also is bringing in an outside team of independent investigators, she said.

A firefighter first and foremost

Dern is a 25-year veteran of the department and has been a captain for 17 years. On Monday, dozens of fellow firefighters gathered at Community Regional Medical Center in support of their colleague. All of them described Dern as a leader.

Capt. Bob Van Tassel, who began his firefighting career with Dern, was chosen to speak for the captain’s family members. They want to thank the community for its support and hospital staff for its care, but they’re “sort of overwhelmed,” he said. “We’re hoping to get them some rest.”

Van Tassel said Dern “is a husband, a father, a firefighter and he’s our friend.” Dern has one daughter “that he’s very proud of,” he said. A firefighting family drove her to the hospital from the college she’s attending, he said.

He’s known Dern for years, and Van Tassel describes his friend as someone good at assessing situations, possibly a trait from his time as an Army Cobra helicopter pilot. But he also has an aesthetic eye. Dern built a house in Shaver, which he sold. He also took an old oak branch on the property and fashioned a mantel for a fireplace, Van Tassel said.

But foremost, Dern is a dedicated firefighter. He’s worked at the busiest fire department truck company for the last five years, Van Tassel said. He could have moved to a less “brutal location,” but chose to stay. Dern stepped out and put himself at risk hundreds of times, Van Tassel said.

A speech at a 1998 Exchange Club luncheon honoring Dern as the city’s firefighter of the year epitomized him: “Pete Dern is the kind of employee who sees a job that needs to be done and does it,” said Capt. Michael S. Gill. “He never complains, and never boasts about his deeds or accomplishments.”

On Monday, Donis said the captain is “a leader among leaders in this department. He’s probably trained every single one of us who have come through the ranks at some point.”

She also praised Dern’s team. The firefighters did everything right in a worst-case scenario, she said.

Donis said the fire likely started in the garage, but the cause is still under investigation. “We haven’t ruled out anything yet,” she said. “There are some avenues we’re pursuing.”

Van Tassel said the team broke the garage door down to get Dern out, got his clothes off, called for an ambulance and continued to fight the fire. “I’m very proud of them,” he said. “They all knew what had happened was very bad, and they feared he wouldn’t make it out alive.”

Firefighters have connection to burn unit

Donis said Dern was fortunate that the Leon S. Peters Burn Center is located at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno. “He needed immediate burn attention from the experts,” she said.

Fresno firefighters and the burn center have a long connection going back four decades.

“The center started in 1974 as a result of a Fresno firefighter who was injured,” said Sandra Yovino, the center’s clinical director. The firefighter had to be rushed to San Jose, the nearest burn center at that time, she said.

In the 1970s, burn centers were a new idea, Yovino said. There were only a few nationwide. But Fresno firefighters raised initial funds to help open one, she said. The 10-bed center now admits more than 200 burn patients a year and treats another 500 yearly as outpatients.

For years, the Fresno Firefighters Association has held “Fill the Boot” fundraisers for the center.

The burn center’s hyperbaric oxygen chambers to treat smoke inhalation and hard-to-heal wounds are thanks in large part to fund-raising efforts by Fresno firefighters, Yovino said. “One reason we maintain our hyberbaric department is for our firefighters,” she said.

In the past three years, the burn center has treated nine firefighters, Yovino said. Dern is the first Fresno firefighter among them, she said.

It’s a surprisingly low number of firefighters Dominic says he’s treated for burn injuries in 23 years at the center. “They do a very good job of working safely.”

 Contact Barbara Anderson: banderson@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6310 or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.


Further Update:

Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern returned to surgery Friday morning to prepare his burn wounds for skin grafting.

Surgery once or twice a week is not unusual for patients such as Dern who have sustained major burns to a majority of the body, said Community Regional Medical Center staff.

Dern was burned over 70% of his body March 29 when he fell through a garage roof while fighting a house fire and was engulfed in flames.

Late Thursday afternoon, Dern worked with physical therapists to stand for a short time as part of a regimen important for maintaining muscle strength, said Sandra Yovino, clinical director of the Leon S. Burn Center at the hospital.

During the therapy session, Dern was able to enjoy a hug with his wife, Kelly.

Firefighters from Sacramento and Bakersfield visited the hospital Thursday to support Dern and Fresno firefighters.

Contact BoNhia Lee: blee@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6495 or @bonhialee on Twitter.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2015/04/10/4471309_burned-fresno-fire-capt-dern-hugs.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Copyright 2015 – The Fresno Bee

Know Your Enemy!!!

Learn all you can about fire behavior and fire dynamics!

 

5 Failures of Command

936680_331981183594673_40530468_n  by John Alston
Recently, I had a conversation with a group of Fire Officers about the state of Leadership and Character, in the ranks of the modern day fire service. I stated, without fear of contradiction that the “First-line Supervisor” Rank was the most critical position on the job.  We all agreed.  We went through all of the ranks and discussed them, 1 by 1; their impact on our profession, in all of its aspects. We then began to discuss the effectiveness and/or the lack thereof. We are willing to stipulate that there are so many areas to cover, that we ran out of time. There were so many items that we had to start narrowing the focus.   We got down to 5.
They are:
1) Poor Communications
2) Lack of Accountability
3) Lack of Discipline
4) Lack of Commitment
5) Lack of Training
  1. Poor Communications – As is stated, so many times, communication is the principle method by which we get things done.  At every level in the fire service, when there is a gap in service (both for our External and Internal Customers), the lack of communications or poor communication rises to the top of the list.  Whether in the Fire Station, Headquarters or in the street, poor communications are at the root of calamities, disasters and miscues.   Written orders, guidelines and rules must be clearly formulated and clearly communicated. Public Fire Education and Fire Prevention efforts must take the “end-user” into consideration.  Complete and succinct information can make working with the public, on important issues, so much more easier.  Yet, many Officers are not trained in effective communications and many don’t know when communications have gone awry.
  2. Lack of Accountability – ACCOUNTABILITY: for actions and responsibilities; for crew members, equipment and tasks, particularly at the scene of emergencies.  Lack of Accountability could also be classified as a Lack of Responsibility; members being responsible for their own actions. A few years back, I saw so many classes being offered on Accountability Systems, Rapid Intervention Crews, May-Day’s and Self-Rescue techniques.  I taught many of them.  The prevailing issue that came up was working to keep our people from getting into those situations in the first place. Purposeful and proactive accountability can aid to that end.  When we impress upon our people that situational awareness is paramount, we are telling them to be accountable.
  3. Lack of Discipline – Our service is effected, negatively, not by the exercise and issuance of discipline, but by the lack of the same.  Many members talk about the lack of morale from time to time.  Some attribute it to contracts, equipment, schedules, the person at the top, Officers, etc.  However, I can say that the lack of discipline is a more pernicious element to low morale than any other.  It’s easy to blame the Chief, Commissioner or Fire Director for your woes, however, what is going on in your neck of the woods.  What about the things you have direct control over.  I have found that when discipline is effectively applied and evenly enforced; when members know what your expectations are and you are willing to hold them to the standards, morale and productivity improve.  It starts and ends with you!  Yes, YOU!  Lack of discipline, in your own personal and professional demeanor/deportment, can be contagious.  You wear your uniform improperly, so will your subordinates; come to work late and stay unshaven/disheveled, so will your subordinates; cut corners, they will; break rules, they will.
  4. Lack of Commitment – I am a big proponent of commitments and being sure that you are clear on them. It is a significant character trait for firefighters and fire officers that is severely lacking these days.  I have seen a great shift from a true commitment to the job, your crew, your officer and yourself  to a true commitment to “yourself”.  The number of self-centered, self-absorbed, conceited and narcissistic firefighters is at an all time high.  It permeates every aspect of our service and I don’t see the trend slowing.  There are several reasons why, but commitment stands out.  Look up from the phone, laptop and/or iPAD and see what has happened to our beloved profession.  It’s not pretty.
  5. Lack of Training – How does one get to Carnegie Hall?; Practice, Practice, Practice.  How does one become an Effective Commander in the Fire Service (one that members will Trust)? TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN!  You have to train, to acquire the confidence, skill sets and competence to operate in your position. You must read, take courses and network with other more experienced fire officers to stay abreast of emerging technologies.  You must seek a mentor and then be  a mentor to someone else.  Your training must be multi-disciplined.  There are some great corporate management books out there.  There is required reading for our profession and acquired reading.  Be a sponge.  Continue on a course of achievement and education.  It works!

expanded podcast online…

 Copyright 2012 John Alston. All rights reserved.