The 2012 calendars are still crisp and clean, and New Year’s resolutions are being followed dutifully. Before we begin the second week of 2012, I’d like to suggest a few new items for your to-do list.
Nevermind the Mayan calendar predictions for the end of the world on 12/21/12; I prefer to follow the Chinese calendar. This calendar year, which begins on Jan. 23, is the Year of the Dragon — the mightiest animal of the Chinese zodiac. Legend has it that dragons prefer to live by their own rules, are unafraid of challenges and are willing to take risks — much like fire-service leaders need to be in 2012.
As the economy continues to sag, it’s time for leaders of the fire service to take a stand in the coming year and consider:
1] Develop a theme for the year. The Year of the Dragon is the perfect year for you as a fire chief to solicit input from your team and find out what your department needs. Does your department need to get back to the basics in training? You could focus on one basic training aspect each month. Do you need to re-focus on the 16 Life-Safety Initiatives? Or do you need to revitalize communication with your community through fresh, monthly educational messages (domestic preparedness, creating exit plans, residential sprinklers, etc.)? Find out how with some help from the USFA.
2] Commit to peer support. Meet regularly for breakfast or lunch with a couple of other chiefs. A regular sharing of problems or ideas is a good way to kick-start motivation. The basic success of change-agent organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Weight Watchers, Firefighters Cancer Support Network and Vet-to-Vet stems peer-to-peer interaction. Don’t get bogged down in details; grab a quick meal or coffee and share ideas.
3] Review the Code of Ethics. The International Association of Fire Chiefs created the code in 2003. A quick Google search of “Fire department code of ethics” will offer a wide range of statements that can be adopted or adapted for your department, including one from Prince George’s County, Md., that is short and to the point.’s Fire Chiefs Code of Ethics. A healthy, annual activity for every chief and officer is to review the
4] Read a good business book. Fire and emergency response services have become business commodities, and good business sense is critical for today’s fire chiefs. Review the book section of the Wall Street Journal or ask a trusted business person for a recommendation. As a devoted Jim Collins fan, it would be easy for me to recommend his newest book, Great by Choice. Collins and co-author Morten T. Hansen offer research from the past turbulent decade on seven companies that beat their industry index by 10 times during unstable periods. However, if you haven’t read Good to Great, read that first. Great by Choice is about keeping your head down and forging ahead — good advice for fire chiefs in the current economy.
5] Walk the talk. Commit to be healthier in December than you are in January. Simply decide on one action for 2012 that will make you healthier physically or mentally by the end of the year. The emphasis on health and fitness in the fire service has undeniably come a long way in the past decade, but still has a ways to go to reduce line of duty heart attacks.
What are your commitments for 2012? Tell us below.