Group Creates National Firefighter Code of Ethics

News of firefighter misconduct seems to make it into headlines nearly every day.

Instead of sitting idly by and complaining that any wrongdoing, large or small, gives all responders a black eye, a group of veteran firefighters decided to do something.

The Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association (CVVFA) with the assistance of National Society of Executive Fire Officers has created a National Firefighter Code of Ethics.

View National Firefighter Code of Ethics

"Throughout our nation's history, firefighters have been looked upon with great respect and admiration for their courage and dedication to their profession," authors wrote.

They explain that the recommendations are "intended to mitigate and negate situations that may result in embarrassment and waning of public support for what has historically been a highly respected profession."

The need for an ethics code for responders surfaced while CVVFA officials were conducting research for their Fire Service Reputation Management White Paper.

In that 2010 document, they noted: "The nation's fire service has long been held in justifiably high esteem. This reputation has been hard earned. The fire service is that 'rock of stability to which the public knows to turn during the upheaval of a crisis -- be that crisis a dwelling fire, rescue, natural disaster, or medical emergency."

After reading the White Paper, then U.S. Fire Administrator Kelvin Cochran praised them for tackling such an emotional issue.

"Like every other profession, we in the fire service suffer the embarrassment and damage to our hard earned reputation because of the very few who choose to break the law or rules. While that may be unfair; it is our reality in today's world of instant, mass communication," he said at the time, adding that it "articulates some excellent solutions, and clamors for a Code of Ethics as the next logical step for our profession."

Steve Austin, past president of CVVFA, encourages personnel to not only sign the Code of Conduct, but to embrace and abide by it.

Austin said after the White Paper, the NSEFO stepped up to the plate, and came up with recommendations.

He added that there have been several presentations, and fire service organization representatives commented on the document that has been tweaked a number of times.

"The Code of Ethics serves to remind our brethren firefighters of our moral and ethical obligation to the profession as well as to the people we serve. The public places great trust in our profession and we need to exercise good judgment in order to preserve that trust."

Some of the code includes:

* Always conduct myself, on and off duty, in a manner that reflects positively on myself, my department and the fire service in general.

* Accept responsibility for my actions and for the consequences of my actions.

* Support the concept of fairness and the value of diverse thoughts and opinions.

* Avoid situations that would adversely affect the credibility or public perception of the fire service profession.

* Be truthful and honest at all times and report instances of cheating or other dishonest acts that compromise the integrity of the fire service.

* Conduct my personal affairs in a manner that does not improperly influence the performance of my duties, or bring discredit to my organization.

* Be respectful and conscious of each member's safety and welfare.

* Recognize that I serve in a position of public trust that requires stewardship in the honest and efficient use of publicly owned resources, including uniforms, facilities, vehicles and equipment and that these are protected from misuse and theft.

More information can be obtained at FirefighterBehavior.com.

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