Tough Economic Times Require Tough Fire Prevention Decisions - Part 2

One of the key challenges has been the paradigm shift of viewing fire prevention as a fundamental element and key function of fire protection services rather than a function that simply supports the line.

Keep an eye on the ball
Most of us have sworn an oath. That oath is to protect the citizens of our community. To do so requires dedication and focus, not on how sad cuts and position eliminations are, but on what is important: Finding fire hazards and correcting them, providing timely professional information on how to mitigate fire hazards, selling fire prevention code requirements and providing good customer care.

Listen And Be thoughtful
Remember that you work for the public. If you think your policy makers are uninformed, you need to reflect on what you or your department has failed to do to make them aware and informed. If you think your chief doesn't understand the importance of fire prevention issues, you need to think about why he or she has that opinion. What have you done to make them aware of or to involve them in the process? If the public chooses emergency response over fire prevention functions, why is that? Maybe it is the best choice from a list of bad ones.

Emergency responders provide a host of functions and can perform a variety of services. An inspector, boiled down to doing their job, still costs someone (businesses) money. No matter how fancy you dress that fact up, it still is not that attractive. The fact is, those of us in fire prevention are not generally viewed as a charter member of the Hero Division. Don't view that offensively, just reflect and understand the overall perceptions and reality of various job functions. Another thing to consider is that sometimes a manager or chief's choices for cuts come from a solution that stinks, another that stinks, and one that really stinks. How would you pick one of those?

Prioritize Your Tasks
This is tough. What is your local fire experience? What is your biggest local fire problem? Which are your highest risk occupancies (life safety)? Target the occupancies that make you most unsettled with regard to possible fire threat. Make a list and inspect those. Make a list of where you are having your highest number of fires, fire deaths and injuries. Inspect these. Put resource toward making sure that new buildings or processes are code compliant when they get their final inspections. Being new and assuming they start out right, these occupancies can go a while with no intervention just because people will try to keep things new...for a while.

Who's The Morale Officer Today?
This too is a hard one. We are not sure where this got started, but many folks nowadays seem to want a lot from their bosses. There was an analogy that spoke to people being one of three types: power generators, power sappers or co-generators. The generators are those types of people who constantly allow people to plug-in and pull their power. The sappers are those who need power from others and are constantly seeking the generators to fulfill their power demands. Obviously then, the co-gens are those who provide a balance of power supply and give energy to those who need it sometimes, pull power from others who have extra to give sometimes, but generally, they participate in a balanced state, giving and receiving. Watch for the power sappers because they can drain your battery. Don't provide all the power either because in time that will just make you bitter. Know when to share and when to take and help others understand that too.

Support your staff, encourage them, communicate, communicate, communicate. Don't give them the opportunity to feel sorry for themselves, and don't lie to them about the situation. Take responsibility for giving as much as you are taking. Be accountable to yourself and your staff. Understand and be empathetic that they are scared and nervous about their jobs and the jobs of others. Understand too, that you cannot solve everything and protect everyone. Do your job, make sure your staff does their job and stay busy. Focus on the mission and be supportive. Those that matter will rally around the cause. Those that don't may not have been there for the long haul anyway.