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    Question What does "progressive" mean?

    Please explain to me what a "progressive fire department," or "thinking progressive" means. Is it simply something people say to make themselves feel better about their department or is there actually some substance to "being progressive?" I have heard this mentioned several times, most recently in the thread about the black bunker gear. Secondly, please tell me why being "progressive" is so good. Maybe I'm just a New York Dummy, but I can't understand this expression. I'd like boukca in particular to lend me his thoughts on this matter because he throws the term around so often, but anyone is encouraged to reply. Thanks, brothers.

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    the way i've always understood "progressive" is of a department that keeps up with new ideas and technology and uses them to their advantage. it can be referred to most departments that i know of. those that stay behind miss out on newer safety items funds. my dept used to be like this when i rejoined a few years ago. it was going down hill, but we had new blood introduced into the ranks and now it's the opposite.

    Main Entry: 1pro·gres·sive
    Pronunciation: pr&-'gre-siv
    Function: adjective
    Date: circa 1612
    1 a : of, relating to, or characterized by progress b : making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities c : of, relating to, or constituting an educational theory marked by emphasis on the individual child, informality of classroom procedure, and encouragement of self-expression
    2 : of, relating to, or characterized by progression
    3 : moving forward or onward : ADVANCING
    4 a : increasing in extent or severity b : increasing in rate as the base increases
    5 often capitalized : of or relating to political Progressives
    6 : of, relating to, or constituting a verb form that expresses action or state in progress at the time of speaking or a time spoken of
    - pro·gres·sive·ly adverb
    - pro·gres·sive·ness noun
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    Talking This is a good one

    Not for nothing, the meaning of progressive depends on who your talking to, when you are talking to them and where you are talking to them. Some people beleive that being progressive means buying every new toy on the market regardless of whether it is useless or not. Others use the word to prove (in their own mind ) that they are better than you. Basically it is a useless word because it means different things to different people.

    I like to think that my department is progressive because we are constantly doing our homework and developing new tools or methods to serve our community better, or deciding that the old tools and methods are just as good if not better, regardless of others preconceived opinions. Some people might call this thinking for yourself or doing our job. Judge for yourself.
    "The person who says it can't be done, is ALWAYS interupted by the person that JUST DID IT!!"

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    I like to think of progressive departments as ones who use vision in their thinking and planning. You know, the departments that are ahead of their time, doing things a little differently and setting the bar a little higher for everyone. Maybe sometimes going so close to the edge that other departments are looking at them like they're crazy (until several years later when everyone's doing it). Phoenix, AZ, Poudre Fire Authority (Fort Collins, CO), Dothan, AL, Mesa, AZ come to mind. The departments that achieve by leading the industry and who set the example.
    Michael "Mick" Mayers
    Acting Director, Urban Search and Rescue
    South Carolina Emergency Response Task Force
    www.sctf1.sc.gov

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    Hmmmm. You mean places where the citizens we protect are "customers"? I know this will start a lively debate, but I do not care much for the term myself. I think we should all provide a high level of service and professionalism to the public. I just think the term "customer" diminishes what we do.We arent selling cars or serving burgers. I guess we all have our little pet peeves. Ok let me have it. I can take the heat.
    Last edited by MIKEYLIKESIT; 08-31-2002 at 10:32 PM.

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    Cool

    I don't particularly care for the term customer either, but I guess there are worse things that we can call them.
    "The person who says it can't be done, is ALWAYS interupted by the person that JUST DID IT!!"

    FIRST IN ....... LAST OUT

    It is not all glory, I roll a lot of HOSE!!!!

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    Agreed, Mikey, using the terminology "customers" and "customer service" with regard to our profession is highly retarded, IMHO. And there have been entire magazine articles devoted to this subject! Just makes me laugh... Anyone that would use phrases like that has obviously never had to fight with a bunch of Mutts for the only working elevator in the building where fire is blowtorching out a couple of windows on the 17th floor of a project.

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    I think all of this customer service crap came up as a result of EMS response, yet another subject that could start a good debate.
    "The person who says it can't be done, is ALWAYS interupted by the person that JUST DID IT!!"

    FIRST IN ....... LAST OUT

    It is not all glory, I roll a lot of HOSE!!!!

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    I agree with the first 2 posts ..........and I also dont care for the term "customer". We DO provide a service but I dont feel that our end users are standing in the K-Mart check out line ......... Good Definitions for those 2 posters !
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    For those of you who are so anti "customer" or "customer service", why? I'm definitely no Brunacini follower or anything, but we provide certain public safety services and we do that for the people who pay for those services. In the free enterprise system that this country is built on, those paying for whatever service they are paying for are customers. It seems pretty straighforward to me.
    What's the problem with it?

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    I agree with mikey.

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    I think it is a matter of who is speaking and what they are referencing. Is a department progressive in fire attack, fire prevention, safety, community services? There many possible ways in which progression can be viewed.

    I think there are some departments that a bogged down in tradition, I would even call it that, in the way we used to do things, that they fail to accept there are some new ways that may be better. I also think there are some so called "progressive" departments that feel we have to change everything we do, just to be progressive.

    Progression and tradition should not be viewed as opposites. While I am sure we have all used the saying "hundreds of years of tradition, unimpeded by progress", I do not agree that this is always the case.

    A progressive department evaluates the service it provides as a whole. It tries new ideas, and then uses the ones that work, even if it means the old way is still better. A progressive department does the job it is supposed to do, the best way its people and funding allow, in spite of the opposition it receives from its governing body.

    Progress can be measured in many different ways. making changes for the sake of changing should not be one of them.

    And for the record, I also don't like the customer thing, I agree it has more to do with EMS, but in some ways it is the most accurate description. The one big difference is that usually customers chose to use a service, in our case the usually don't have a choice.

    Dave

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    We see a lot of comments from people in long-established fire departments that say something like "50 years of tradition unimpeded by progress". This implies a situation where the leadership may be closed-minded concerning making changes.

    I'm a volunteer, so I have a "real job". At my place of employment, a concept called CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) is promoted with good results.

    CQI means that we constantly re-evaluate how we do things, and that we implement improvements immediately, even it if means changing something that we just changed. CQI is a formal concept (a 104-hour course is taught on the subject), but the concept can be applied to anything, including a fire department.

    We all have "the way we do things". The reason that we do things a certain way is because someone previously established it as a better way than whatever was being done before.

    It is good to base your procedures on "tried and true", but we shouldn't just rest on it. If we did, we would all still be wearing long coats and tall boots, and riding the tailboard . Or perhaps grabbing our fire buckets and running to the fire with the rest of the citizens in the neighborhood.

    I would define a "progressive" fire department as one where new methods are constantly being evaluated, and when something new has merit, it is implemented. This doesn't mean that every new idea will be implemented (sometimes the old ways are the best ways), only that they are given an honest evaluation and are seriously considered.

    We should be thinking about two things:

    (1) Safety - Is there a safer way to do this?

    (2) Efficiency - Is there a more effective way to do this?

    If the answer appears to be "yes" to either question, then a new method should be implemented (like approaching a burning car from a 45 degree angle for safety, or using a piercing nozzle through the hood for efficiency).

    If it works, you keep it. If it doesn't, you can always go back to the "old way".
    Asst. Chief Bill

    International Order of the Fraternal Brotherhood of the Club

    Somewhere in or near north central Creek County, Oklahoma

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    I agree that calling the taxpayers "customers" sometimes makes me grind my teeth, but on the other hand, the concept is the same. These people are paying to have a service conducted. They expect a quality package and timely delivery. Unfortunately, I worked for a while on a part-time basis in other service sectors (waiting tables, delivery, etc.) and I know that a lot of these people (I should say society in general) are too wrapped up in their own little oblivion to consider that jamming an elevator in a building on fire is a bad thing. But I digress...

    I am offering the opinion that we don't have to necessarily put the taxpayers in an adversarial role as some departments do, but educate them and encourage them to assist us in our mission. Calling your taxpayers "customers" doesn't change you into a progressive organization; taking on new approaches and finding alternative solutions to the same problems we've been fighting for decades makes us progressive.

    I would also argue that some departments can't afford to be progressive. The taxpayer base may simply not care whether or not they are treated differently, they just want someone to put their fire out. In our community, that's not the case. They want a trend-setting, award-winning organization that delivers service faster than the national average and with personnel trained and equipped to national standards. I'm not going to run from the argument- That concept poses a problem for "tradition" sometimes and it has caused plenty of heartburn for us at times.

    On the other hand, we have found some ways to change the way we offer our service which has improved our relations and for the most part, we have the support (i.e.; money) from the community and the local politicians.

    I'm not saying anything negative about tradition- I come from four generations of Northeast firefighting- what I'm saying is that sometimes there are different approaches to a problem and we should amintain an open mind. THAT'S probably more about what progressivness means (to me) than anything else.

    Personally- I'd rather be charging down a smoke-filled hallway with it raining drywall on me than giving public education speeches, but you know, they pay me pretty well to make those presentations and the money has to come from somewhere.
    Michael "Mick" Mayers
    Acting Director, Urban Search and Rescue
    South Carolina Emergency Response Task Force
    www.sctf1.sc.gov

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    All too often, a "progressive" fire department is one which employs tactics, tools, and procedures, which are laughed at by other companies. This company is seen as "stupid" or whatever.

    Then, five years down the road, it is common practice, everywhere, to employ the tactics, tools, and procedures that this "stupid" company had implemented 5 years earlier, and are now on to bigger and more "stupid" tactics, tools, and procedures.

    For example, years and years ago, we implemented a procedure (I'm certainly not saying that we were the first, or anything like that), where at working fires, we held a crew in reserve, ready to go, should the crap hit the fan. Other companies chastised us for not using all the manpower on the scene w/ the thought that, "well, if you just use the manpower to put the fire out, the crap won't hit the fan." So, I guess maybe we were just a little progressive in this example (wow, we actually did something right).

    Stay Safe

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    For those of you who are so anti "customer" or "customer service", why?

    A customer makes continual choices.

    Our neighbors, our taxpayers made only one choice -- to live in this community. Those passing through on the highways and involved in collissions really made even fewer choices on who would be their fire department -- they just happenend to be in our area when it happened.

    They're not customers, and no matter how many times you write a magazine article saying they are, they're not.

    The really sad thing about much of what Chief Brunacini writes on customer service is that he even has too -- that somehow some departments and some firefighters just stopped being nice to people and started doing a narrowly defined job. It's not to say limits aren't necessary, but you also can't just memorize a book and tell people "no" because you heard some keywords and not listened to what they needed. It's not customer service, it's helping our neighbors & serving the citizens -- that's what got forgotten too often.

    (And is just me, or do others have a sneaking suscpician Chief B. "overdoes" it deliberately quite frequently, figuring he may not bring everyone to that opinion, but moves more people closer to it than if he wasn't as radical?)

    I would also argue that some departments can't afford to be progressive. The taxpayer base may simply not care whether or not they are treated differently, they just want someone to put their fire out. In our community, that's not the case. They want a trend-setting, award-winning organization that delivers service faster than the national average and with personnel trained and equipped to national standards.

    I'll argue almost the exact opposite.

    First, progressive has nothing to do with money. It's an attitude.
    Yep, not every department can buy top of the line PBI gear or drop a CAFS pumper in place tomorrow.
    But they all can try new hoseloads, new tactics, even things like "responding on the quiet." Try new ideas, keep what improves your service -- that's progress <-- and if we add "ive" to that word we get...

    I'd even venture that most of the "progressive" stuff started on a shoestring budget.

    I doubt very much the citizens in Truck6's area woke up one day and decided they wanted a world class fire department. It's more a credit to the Fire Department and Community Leaders.

    At the risk of completely missing the mark, maybe as a fire service we shouldn't be looking at "customer service" so much as being community leaders. Huh? Yeah, leaders. Leaders within the F.D. build their reputation on being able to execute good ideas well.

    Should we be serving our community? Should we be leading them? We know when we build a new station, increase staffing, or buy new apparatus it improves public safety. Is that serving the customers? Or is that leading the public to earn support for the taxes needed to do that stuff? Maybe you can be happy and call it customer service 'cause it involves taxes so they're "paying" us -- but what if we take the good will we can build up and instead of using that political power to get a tax increase, we focus it on pushing for mandatory sprinklers? I'm not sure the customer service model describes that adequately, but leading the public sure would.

    Matt

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    dal- I think you said it better than I did. It isn't all about money- some of these ideas WERE started on little or no money. My point was that with a lot of people saying they can't get any, there are some unique ways to obtain it if you "think outside the box" (that is SO overused these days).

    Thanks for the different perspective.
    Michael "Mick" Mayers
    Acting Director, Urban Search and Rescue
    South Carolina Emergency Response Task Force
    www.sctf1.sc.gov

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    [i]Originally posted by killerb

    I'm a volunteer, so I have a "real job". At my place of employment, a concept called CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) is promoted with good results.
    [/B]
    So I guess I haven't had a real job in almost 30 years, I must take exception to your analogy! Actually, I find it insulting!

    How about the old phrase "Public Servant"

    Do I agree with the phrase customer? No.

    Progression can be a good and a bad thing. If we find a better way of doing something, do it. New ways are not always better than the old but everything must be on a case by case basis to allow for a valid decision on it's merits as related to progression within any organization. What may be progressive for one department may very well not be progressive for another.
    Last edited by FireLt1951; 09-02-2002 at 02:49 PM.

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    This is an excellent question. It's one of the few meaningful threads in this category.


    I agree with a few posters here that 'progressive' can only be defined in a retrospective manner with respect to the profession. The only way to tell if you are ahead of your time is to wait 5 or 10 years, and then see if what you have been doing has caught on.

    I also agree that 'progress' and 'tradition' are not mutually exclusive concepts. The two can coexist peacefully. Progressive doesn't necessarily mean aggressive.

    Is it possible to do things in a manner that never "catches on" and still be considered 'progressive'? I don't think so. Maybe though??
    Last edited by Resq14; 09-02-2002 at 05:10 PM.

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    So I guess I haven't had a real job in almost 30 years, I must take exception to your analogy! Actually, I find it insulting!
    FireLt1951, I'm sorry you took it that way. It was not so intended.

    I meant no disrepect to career firefighters. The comparison was "volunteer" to "real job". My perspective, not yours.

    My "real job" (the one that puts beans and rice in the pantry) is as a Traffic Coordinator for a very large FAA repair station. Your "real job" is career firefighter.

    The area we serve can no way no how ever afford to staff a full-time department, so I put in 40-50 hours a week at my "real job", then put in about another 20-25 for the fire department, for which I receive no compensation other than a warm fuzzy feeling and the reasonable expectation that if there is a fire in our district, big red trucks and people who know what to do with them will show up.

    Not that my time for the fire department couldn't be considered a real job. It IS a real job, in the sense that it's WORK. I just don't get paid for it.

    Again, no disrepect intended.
    Asst. Chief Bill

    International Order of the Fraternal Brotherhood of the Club

    Somewhere in or near north central Creek County, Oklahoma

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    Killerb,

    No problem, I just reacted to the 2 words being put in quotation marks as though it was a slam. My mis-interpretation.

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    Default I hope this makes sense

    I know a department that is so "progressive" that their head has progressed right up their posterior.

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    You know, maybe "progressive" isn't that great of a term. There are some departments that have given the concept of being forward-thinking and visionary a bad name. There are departments who have completely botched the intent of being progressive (I hate to keep using the term now) not because they are genuinely concerned about service delivery, but because "it seems like the thing to do". And that's not original, that's just jumping on a bandwagon.

    There are good things about being progressive and bad things, I guess. Being a leader is hard- sometimes it's difficult to say you tried something and it didn't work or it was a misguided effort. But some keys to leading involve recognizing other opportunities that exist or looking at your mistakes and trying to improve. I admit, I have probably misused the word "progressive" to describe our department sometimes when maybe I should be saying that we are willing to check out other ideas, take risks, and sometimes make mistakes in order to find better ways of doing things. Maybe I should be saying that we are willing to embrace other ideas that may make us look stupid in the hopes that we will learn something from the experience. Trust me, we've had our share of doozies, but in the long run, I think we have done a good job of moving away from bad ideas and choosing good ones.

    I guess if someone wants to say they're progressive, it means a whole lot of things to a lot of different people. But it also depends on the context- are they saying it to prove that they're something special (or better than another department)? Or are they saying it to indicate that their department is open to different ideas and willing to listen and even try different things.

    If they are a department, who as mikey says, have progressed their heads into a place not conducive to deep breathing, then they probably aren't truly progressive so much as a bunch of sheep following the leader for a given period of time. Or would that be lemmings? I guess it just depends on the circumstances. Good luck with the question- I think I learned a lot from the discussion myself.
    Michael "Mick" Mayers
    Acting Director, Urban Search and Rescue
    South Carolina Emergency Response Task Force
    www.sctf1.sc.gov

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    Mick brings up some real good points. I really am not anti-progress, but I have seen times when form rules over function. I think we should always be open to new ideas and not be afraid to experiment. We are some of the most resourceful people on the planet. Who thinks better on the fly then a firefighter? Due to the shear size of our country and all the different social and political issues we face,there will always be that head scratching and "where did they come with that one" in our business. What works in Oregon may not work in Detroit (just examples)..and remember...Dinosaurs are extinct for a reason..Keep this discussion going.....

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    I think of progressive as a willingness to try new or different ideas or techniques and constantly striving to improve yourself and your department's operations. Not being stuck in the "we've always done it this way" type of thinking.

    For example, the use of a rescue-engine rather than a traditional heavy squad. Why spend hundreds of thousands for an apparatus that can't pump water? With a rescue-engine, you can have as much compartment space as all but the biggest heavy squads and your company can perform more roles at fire scenes and other emergencies.

    Hey All-Hands, with your Squads using rescue-engines, maybe you guys are progressive after all
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

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