Are We Still Public Servants?

Can you imangine an ambulance company that pays wages at the European scale, gives a month of vacation and expects you to take it - and embraces a never-say-no model of customer service? - Bruce Evans, "Make No Mistake, Emergency Service is Big Business...


<?xml:namespace prefix = dme />Can you imangine an ambulance company that pays wages at the European scale, gives a month of vacation and expects you to take it - and embraces a never-say-no model of customer service? -Bruce Evans, "Make No Mistake, Emergency Service is Big Business", Fire Chief Magazine/March 2011

In his article, Chief Bruce Evans, chronicles two companies that are  fulfilling the above quote.  Private companies that place a high value on their employees, and an even higher value on providing exceptional customer service.



As I was making my entrance into this career, the main draw was the fact that I would get to serve the public.  I desired to be a public servant.  To help others.



My first job out of the fire academy was working at an ARFF department for a private company.  The job was great. At one point there was an employee union strike at the airfield facility, and the fire department was asked to provide security (which consisted of driving rounds of the facility).  Then, like others on the department, I complained.  My job wasn't to provide security, I was a firefighter! However, being a private company, customer service was most important.  Meeting the customers needs; serving the customer.



A couple years later, I left that positions and went to work for at my first municipal department, now I was really going to change the world. I was going to serve the public.  It didn't take long to realize why there was such a demand for private services.



Have we forgotten our primary job description, public servant?  We treat our positions as neither public nor with an attitude of servant-hood.  It seems that more effort is made to keep our disciplinary actions, budget expenditures, employee practices, and operational procedures private, rather than public. The term public should never invoke images of closed-door meetings, or special treatment for department "insiders".



Have we neglected the 'serve' part of our duties?  The pervasive attitude is that if it is not in the contract then it will not be done.  We feel that the public owes us, we bring in union negotiators to get us the best deal.  As servants shouldn't we be doing what is best for the master, the public? Most departments are funded by tax dollars, yet when we are requested to perform a standby or some other special event, we want to bill extra for it.  Wouldn't it make more sense, and maintain public trust, if we just provided what was asked, served? 



 By continually neglecting to serve the public, we may be putting ourselves out of work.



I challenge those in this Firefighting profession to remember what we are called to.  We are called to be public servants, to serve the public.



Are your actions reflective of a servant?  Do you serve the public? Do you provide exceptional customer service (to external customers, not just internal)? Or is your attitude concerned with what can the public do for me?