Fully Involved

October is the fire prevention month. In my mind, the most significant event that undoubtedly will have a direct positive impact on fire prevention and in addressing the fire problem in our country took place back at the end of August. The ceremonial...


"Fully involved means a structure that's fully involved in fire. I use that analogy as it relates to a fire department or fire service organization where the members, the sections, the organizational units and shifts and divisions of labor are the rooms and the contents; the organization as a whole is the house, and to be successful, to navigate the tough times, the entire organization, its units and its members must be fully involved.... It takes more than just the fire chief to lead through tough times; so that's the essence behind the analogy of fully involved and how it fits in the context of the presentation.... It goes back to this concept of one person can make a difference. In every rank, every organizational unit, in every fire station and each battalion and section, there are members of our organization that have not been discouraged by the difficult times, because they realize that part of the history of our profession is actually being resilient during difficult times. And I think that, in this context, one person can make a difference, and I use those individuals that are spread throughout our organization sorta in the analogy of wood."

And he then explained the definitions, and in a way the organizational synonyms of the different types wood like the "petrified wood," "dead wood," and the "cured wood." He said that the "cured wood" is the wood that is processed to its prime capacity to burn. He explained "the cured wood in our organization is mostly senior members or members of rank who have a reputation and credibility for hope and optimism, but have been discouraged somehow because of the overwhelming responsibilities we have as leaders. And once the kindling is connected to the cured wood in our organization, then the fire will actually start and build momentum."

Chief Cochran's analogy was quite interesting and accurate from the organizational perspective. Clearly all organizations have these various types of "woods". In my mind though, USFA is filled mostly with "cured wood". And Kelvin's leadership can indeed be the right kindling to set a blaze the USFA. USFA can and must be the leader in addressing our country's fire problems. And that is not just me saying it. That was the exact role that was assigned to the USFA by the Congress back in 1974.

Earlier this year, in my article titled "In Search Of" I focused on the importance of appointing a strong leader to serve at the helm of the USFA and wrote "The next USFA Administrator must be an accomplished fire service leader that is well-versed in the fundamental principles of the organization that he/she will lead, and must have demonstrated deep commitment to the core founding values and missions of the USFA, as was originally outlined in Public Law 93-498, the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974." I was hoping that we get just such a person at the USFA's helm.

Chief Cochran's speech was impressive and gave us a good glimpse of his general views and his leadership style. But then I was more interested to see what he would say specifically about the USFA and its priorities in addressing the fire problem in our country. I must admit, my friends, that I was even more impressed when I read his interviews that he did afterward with the Firehouse and FireRescue magazines.

Just as a good IC would do before taking over the command, it appears that Chief Cochran has done an all around initial size-up to get a good snapshot of the existing fireground conditions, before developing his tactical plans. Take a look at what he said in his interview with the FireRescue Magazine, and see if I am right to have faith in him; or I am being too overly optimistic.

"First and foremost, I think it's still incumbent on the USFA and the administrator to really focus on how the organization was born in the first place, and that is out of the tremendous fire problem in the United States of America. We were experiencing a tremendous rate of deaths to citizens and property loss. Out of "America Burning," the USFA was ultimately born to reduce fires and injuries and deaths related to fires. So I think that's still a part of our mission. Even though we've made great strides in reducing those numbers, we should not be satisfied with our success and should continue to focus on high-risk areas, where there is still a tremendous loss of life and injuries, which are primarily senior citizens above 50, children under 5 and in poverty-stricken minority communities. And I just believe that we should continue to use programs that we've used in the past that were successful but evaluate them to see if there are new innovations that can make them better and then we need to market and target those areas and be a little more assertive in getting public education and life-saving education right to those vulnerable citizens in our country. So I think life safety and fire prevention is still a primary part of our mission, and they will still be a high priority for me as U.S. Fire Administrator."