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Now, let me the offer the following goals for you:
- Our engine companies will seek to arrive on location at the scene of fire emergencies within five minutes for 95% of our incidents.
- We will work to double the number of fire department training opportunities for our EMS personnel within the next 24 months.
Do you see the difference? The first two are very touchy-feeling in nature and they sound good. But how do you accomplish them and how do you measure them? The second two goals are very specific and can be measured. You count the numbers at the beginning of the year and you count the numbers at the end of the year. You can then assess the relative success or failure of your efforts. This assessment will then allow you to modify your goals for the future. It is this assessment and modification process that allows you to move toward the future in an organized manner.
The second two goals also refer to the resources which will be involved within the goal-achievement process. The first refers to engine companies and the second refers to the use of EMS personnel. You may also wish to create maintenance-related goals that involve the various types of equipment in your fleet and your projected preventive maintenance requirements for them.
Let me suggest that it is even possible to set length-of-service goals for your fleet that include a maintenance schedule including daily, weekly, monthly and annual requirements for inspection and servicing. If your goal is to lengthen the service life of your resources, you need to create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, resource-oriented, and time specific.
Why do I stress the need to set time limits for you and your goals? The reason is really quite simple and logical if you stop and think about it. If you do not set these time limits, you will never have a reason to work hard to reach them. They will lie out in front of you forever and a day. Some may serve to trap you in years to come. They will sneak up and bite you on the butt, usually when no one is looking.
Let me close with a simple thought: The future will come. It will come whether you want it to or not. You can reach out and work to meet it or you can end up being blown about by the winds of change: much a fallen leaf in late November. The wise leader looks out from the bridge of the ship and looks toward the horizon. They work to chart a course through the rocks and shoals which stand between all of us and the future. They realize the need to set goals. So too should you. Just make them SMART.
DR. HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, is a FirehouseÂ® contributing editor. A municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ, he is the former president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Dr. Carter is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Currently chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for Howell Township District 2, he retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department in 1999 as a battalion commander. He also served as chief of training and commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Dr. Carter is vice president of the American Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE). He recently published Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip, which was also the subject of a Firehouse.com blog. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.