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Rethinking fire department strategies and training

Posted by Jackie Belasky

Aug 17, 2017 4:46:32 PM

Fire departments looking for improved effectiveness can look to their industrial counterparts for inspiration.
Fire departments looking for improved effectiveness can look to their industrial counterparts for inspiration.


Any organization can gain value from reassessing its core strategies and making changes and updates every once in a while. This applies to all public safety agencies -- including fire departments. Though firefighters have a vital and clearly defined role in their communities, thinking analytically about how they go about their life-saving work can introduce new and effective practices that improve departmental performance.

Take cues from industry
Fire Rescue 1 contributor Robert Avsec recently gave a suggestion for fire chiefs looking for new sources of inspiration: Municipal fire departments can learn from the way industrial fire departments operate. This refocusing can help agencies think in larger ways, pulling back their perspective and setting values statements that will redefine individual roles and set up priorities for training.

Industrial fire departments, being part of corporate structures, operate on objective-based models. Taking this approach can help town and city departments become more effective at serving their communities. Re-labeling fire departments with missions such as "community loss prevention" can re-focus different ways to accomplish long-term, big-picture safety goals.

Taking such a perspective, according to Avsec, can help firefighters put more focus on vital programs such as fire prevention and preparedness. Systems that have become too set in their ways may be putting the lion's share of focus on individual performance in responses. This is tactical thinking instead of strategic, and chiefs operating in such a way may be missing big chances to better prepare their communities.

In a model based on industrial firefighting, community members become the "company" and their safety and well-being become operational targets. This means that every step of a fire department's responsibilities are focused on doing whatever will give those individuals the service they need to remain safe, and to get back to normalcy after suffering due to an emergency.

Big-picture considerations can keep communities safe in several ways.Big-picture considerations can keep communities safe in several ways.

The mark of great leadership
Will agency leaders be able to increase performance through new ways of thinking? The ability to accomplish such a change is a mark of good leadership, according to Fire Chief magazine. The outlet recently defined great leadership, and explained that top-quality bosses not only think outside the box, they view their organizations from a high-level perspective. Being an effective modern fire chief means never losing sight of the forest for the trees, and following through to improve the way a department operates.

Changing the strategic focus of a town or city's fire department won't be possible without buy-in from individual firefighters. These are the men and women who are being asked to step back and assess their practices and procedures, meaning leaders will have to get them on board. Per Fire Chief's list, this kind of support goes to decision-makers who project confidence in their ideas and priorities. Trying to enforce a new department-wide policy without seeming convinced may raise cynicism or alarm among the firefighters being asked to go along.

Organized personnel management
Trying to refresh a fire department's values and change its approach to everything from performance assessment to community fire prevention can be a challenging process. No matter what specific changes departments seek, however, the right public safety workforce management software can keep the effort on track. From ensuring new training events don't interfere with minimum staffing levels, to keeping track of performance reports while standards change -- a modern back-end system can keep departments' offices running efficiently.

Furthermore, automating basic HR tasks and making automating several personnel management tasks frees up time that supervisors can use to look at their departments from a more strategic perspective. When the day-to-day operations of staffing are performed smoothly, there is more time to consider how the agency can strengthen its performance overall.

AgencyWeb IWM

Topics: Firefighters

About Orion Communications

As workforce management and data interface experts, Orion Communications is a leading provider of public safety workforce management software.  Orion’s AgencyWeb® software helps agencies simplify complex workforce management processes and reduce labor cost. Orion has been serving the public safety industry since 1998 and is a certified women-owned business headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

For more information, please contact Jackie Belasky at 214-361-1203, #2413 or