Be an Effective Gatekeeper

As a fire officer, your people are depending on you to see that they can operate as safely as possible.

Before we go any further let me make a point. Please do not think that I am speaking against the concept of having rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes it is the rules by which we operate that keep us from a state of chaos. Many times during my career in Newark, I took my people's part over the demands of the organization. I took a liberal view of these sorts of things.

My view on this topic comes from a reading of the history surrounding General George S. Patton, the famous World War II military commander. Patton was a man who took great pains to insure that his troops were well-trained to do their deadly duties. He took care of his men by being uniformly strict to all and demanding solid, top-quality training for the troops.

Patton was once heard to put forward his view on the importance of rules and regulations to the running of the U.S. Army. Let me paraphrase his thoughts for you as I have read and digested them over the course of my career. He essentially stated that regulations exist as guidance for the commander in the performance of their duties. He did not see the regulations as strict and inflexible guideposts for his operations.

Many were the instances when Patton challenged conventional wisdom. Many were the instances when Patton took a detour around the regulations to get the job done. However, in each of these instances, he operated within the general parameters of the regulations. It must be noted that all he did was for the good of his command. This is a lesson which has served me well during my time in the fire service.

Many times in my teaching sessions around the country I took time to define my own view on the role of regulations in the performance of my fire department duties. I have taught my students that I always viewed the regulations as the boxing ring within which my teams and I were allowed to perform our duties. Much like a boxer using the ropes to get their job done, I would occasionally lean into the ropes and stretch them out a bit. I never left the ring, but I did stretch the tension on the ropes to get the job done.

Now my friends let us get back to the issue at hand. If you step forward to assume a leadership role in your fire department you be aware of the fact that this new role comes with an awesome responsibility. Your people are depending on you to see that they can operate as safely as possible. You cannot tolerate anything which will place your people in danger.

You are the shepherd who is responsible for the safety of your flock. You need to work within the safety possible operational pasture possible. You need to be the gatekeeper who keeps your flock safety within the pasture of effective fire department operations. Woe be unto you if you fail to take your job seriously. Our leaders here in Adelphia are working hard to be effective gatekeepers. I applaud their efforts and urge you to copy their lessons.