Emergency Management Leadership - Looking Outward

Aug. 8, 2005
I propose the fire service make a priority of interaction with other government agencies, the business community, and private entities; to become the leaders in emergency management.

Firefighters do not need help from anyone. Fire Departments do the job for their community, all else be ignored. Does this sound familiar? The fire service is good at getting the job done, with the resources it has. Of course there is interaction with police agencies and EMS, if the department is not the sole provider. But, are there opportunities for working with others that would provide better service and results for our communities?

I propose there are opportunities, with many departments already having community interaction priorities as policy. I propose the fire service make a priority of interaction with other government agencies, the business community, and private entities; to become the leaders in emergency management.

What is the fire service giving up? NOTHING! In fact, the fire service should be the leader among all public safety, emergency response, and emergency management concerns. The fire service has been the leaders in developing procedures and structures for most emergency situations already.

A great example of this is incident command. With the need for homeland security a "new" system of managing incidents has been developed, NIMS, the National Incident Management System. You would almost think incident management is a new concept, unless you are a firefighter.

NIMS is being taught to emergency managers, military personnel, EMS, and law enforcement. Who is teaching it? Usually it is the emergency management community. Why is the fire service not instructing all NIMS training? We have been doing formal incident and fire command for twenty years. We are generally pretty good at it. We invented it!

The point is for the fire service to only be an entity in emergency management and homeland security, but to be the leaders. The only part the fire service does not have expertise in is criminal enforcement and security. But, in integrating disciplines, agencies and communities, the fire service is best-placed for leadership.

Firefighters have excellent goodwill with the community and citizens. The fire service is the leader in public education, arson investigation, fire prevention, hazardous materials, and always in response to emergencies and disasters. We are the generalists. It therefore is natural for the fire service to provide the leadership in All-hazards emergency management.

How can this be accomplished? This is what needs to be done at the local level and promoted at the national level by fire service associations:

  • Professionalize through education. Firefighters should be many of the EM graduates at our colleges.
  • Get involved- cooperate and collaborate with public and private agencies and entities.
  • Create a culture of valuing the knowledge and expertise outside the fire service.
  • Apply your vast experience to emergency management.
  • Take on leadership roles in emergency management.

The results of experienced fire service leadership in emergency management will be for better community involvement and coordinated integration of resources. The key in effective emergency management is communication, collaboration, and cooperation among all players. The fire service professional has the experience and training, and with the education, the ability to be the best choice for successful emergency management leadership.

Lonnie is available to fire departments and emergency agencies to assist in organizational planning (strategic plans, mitigation plans, response plans, and training plans) and organizational assessment needs. Contact him at: [email protected].

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