Position Your Fire Department for Success

As budget needs grow, people are going to take a closer look at just who we are and what we do and the fire service needs to develop people who can do their work in an efficient and cost-effective manner.


What can we expect to encounter as we move through the 1990’s?  I really don’t know what to tell you.  We like to leave that star gazing stuff to Ron Coleman from Fullerton, California.  He must have a contact with the beyond for some of the fine futuristic thinking he has given us.  But what we are saying is that regardless of what new advances come on the scene, we will still be responsible as individuals for our own actions.  If you are in a leadership position, it is critical for you to instill a love of responsibility in your people.  And the best way is still by example.  Remember that another part of responsibility is loyalty.  Show it, live it, earn it and you will come to receive it.

The fire service has been skating along for a long time on its reputation as public-spirited community service people.  Denis Waitley, the management writer, once summed up a great deal of what I know about the fire service best when he said, “… the mind can’t tell the difference between an actual experience and an imaginary experience that is repeated vividly.”

Or as we are frequently heard to say in my fire department, some fire officers are truly a legend in their own mind. Seek feedback, and need advice.  If left to our own devices, we would say that the world is too thin.  However, the truth is that we are far too short for our weight.

As we approach the year 2020 and our budgets continue to climb, people are going to take a closer look at just who we are and what we do.  To exist in an environment of this kind, we need to develop people who are professionally competent and trained to do their work in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

It will take a conscious effort on your part to develop people like this.  And it is this development which is a critical component of the change equation.

How will we do it you might ask?  We will do it with

  • Hard work
  • Studying
  • Getting promoted
  • Remembering where you came from!

To succeed as a fire service leader in the 21st Century, you will have to have a good, clear picture of where you are headed.  More importantly, you will have to possess the ability to instill this picture into the heads of those you lead.  Do it and you will succeed; fail to do it and you will fail.  It’s that simple!

As I have often written, patience is virtue!  Let me leave you with a simple thought on just how I believe you should approach change in the fire service.

Lord, grant me the ability to change those things that I can change, the serenity to live with those that I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.

HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ. Dr. Carter retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department and is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Follow Harry on his "A View From my Front Porch" blog. You can reach Harry by e-mail at drharrycarter@optonline.net.