Let’s Put Discipline Back in the Fire Service

I am sure we have all heard it around the kitchen table or at meeting night in our own fire stations, the great malady of all times in the fire service: “These new guys just aren’t the same…”; “Back in our day…” It really doesn’t matter if...


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I – Instructing. A primary job of an officer or a senior firefighter is to help mentor, train and instruct others along the way. There is nothing that will help improve the fire service more than the sharing of knowledge, skills and experience between folks who have the skills and those new students who are trying to learn them.

N – Nimble. Officers and firefighters really suffer when it comes to this. We must be nimble and ready, willing and able to make changes much faster than we do. Factors that affect our ability to be nimble include the size of our department and the number and length of long-standing traditions and/or practices. Officers and firefighters must be operationally nimble, but also mentally ready to adjust their personal and professional courses as things change around them. You know, change – like, for instance, the new recruits who are coming to us now.

E – Enthusiasm. There is no easy way to hide your personal enthusiasm for the job – or, for that matter, your lack of enthusiasm. Officers and firefighters who show enthusiasm and passion for the job will find that it is truly contagious and benefits an organization, shift, or department. Enthusiasm cannot be faked nor forced upon anyone. It is the job of officers and firefighters to help foster and spread enthusiasm.

To me, the answer is clear: Whether or not you choose the dictionary definition of discipline as systematic training or subjection to authority, or choose to implement my DISCIPLINE acronym, the fire service may be a better place for your actions. Discipline in whatever form applies to us personally, as an engine or ladder company officer or member, as a group, shift or platoon member and even right to the top as a an entire department. That means that you can do something about it without anybody else’s help. You don’t need the chief, the captain, mayor or city manager. We can all apply a little more discipline to the fire service and maybe there will be something new to talk about at the kitchen table.

Chief Concerns is a forum addressing issues of interest to chief fire officers. Opinions expressed are those of the writer. We invite all volunteer and career chief fire officers to share their concerns, experiences and views in this column. Please submit articles to Chief Concerns, Firehouse Magazine, 3 Huntington Quadrangle, Suite 301N, Melville, NY 11747 or to editors@Firehouse.com, with “Chief Concerns” in the subject line.

Peter Lamb will present “Crew Survivability Concepts“ and “Basic Company Tactics” at Firehouse Expo 2005, July 26-31 in Baltimore.


Peter Lamb is chief of the North Attleboro, MA, Fire Department. He began his fire service career more than 20 years ago as a volunteer firefighter, then was a career firefighter with the Harris Fire District in Coventry, RI, where he eventually became chief. Lamb then was chief of the Tiverton, RI, Fire Department for 10 years until he became recruit coordinator for the Department of Fire Services, Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. He then served as manager of Program Development, Certification and Staff Services for the agency and later as director of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.