Managing our way through Covid-19 has been a huge challenge for fire service. This global health crisis has forced us all to quickly change and adapt. The fire service is positioned well to tackle the necessary changes.
As long as there has been a fire service we have been sharing with each other. When firefighters and departments work together, everyone wins. We do not need to compete with each other but rather we need to work together and share with each other as together we are stronger. This means working closely together both internally (within our fire station) and externally (with the broader fire and emergency service community).
Internally, when all members (including leaders) of a fire department are pulling in the same direction, both the fire department and firefighters thrive. The result is a better place to work and service to our citizens. Firefighters who share with each other are typically better prepared for their next incident. Sharing our knowledge and gently pushing each other to be better makes us all safer and more effective.
I have seen our firefighters get consistently better because of team closeness. Great firefighters are here for the team—not for themselves—and the team is here for our citizens. So, when we play as a team, everyone wins. When firefighters work together opportunities are also increased for them. Whether it is helping each other with training, fitness, job searches and life challenges, together they are stronger. I visit many fire stations each year and I can tell quite a bit about the fire department after meeting some of the firefighters there. I am happy to say most fire departments “get it” — fire fighting is a team sport.
Externally, when fire departments reach out and work together with other fire departments (and other emergency service agencies), the same good things happen. Fire departments that share and train with other fire departments increase the safety and effectiveness of their firefighters and organization and helps to enhance the services they provide to their citizens.
In my department, we are constantly training with other departments, both though our training centre and during our regular weekly training sessions. We are also always looking to improve and find new and better ways of doing things. I know first-hand that this interaction has really helped our department to improve our services, increase our safety and make us better. We are always willing to share our training centre, training props, lesson plans, power points and guidelines with others as we know that most will do likewise.
When I share something with another department I simply ask that if they improve it, to please let us know the improvements so we can consider them. I was recently asked what I thought the most significant change in the fire service was during the past several years and my answer was the internet. The internet allows us to share very quickly and also to see what others are doing right or wrong. I have several good friends who are leaders in the fire service whom I have never met in person, however, we are constantly sharing and trading ideas with each other.
I love having other firefighters and departments come here to train or visit with us as it broadens our firefighters’ training and knowledge. Fire departments that work closely together to deliver their important services thrive and their citizens receive better value for their taxes. Mutual aid agreements assist departments in ensuring adequate resources are available. Automatic aid agreements assist departments in providing timely responses. Both types of agreements do so with little increased costs and huge benefits. The community benefits in so many ways and the fire departments also benefit in many ways by providing a safer and more effective service. Large or small, modern fire departments have realized that they can’t go it alone. Developing strategic partnerships is a win-win for us all.
Training together prepares us better to work together during a mutual or automatic aid incident. Sharing resources with each other is common sense and fiscally responsible.
My departments have also benefited from me travelling all over Canada delivering my Safe and Effective Scene Management program (aka #stopbad program). I get to visit dozens of fire departments each year and learn from each. I often come home with some great ideas as to how to improve our services and or training at my department. Some of the best ideas I have seen come from some of the smaller fire departments who need to be more creative due to their smaller budgets (doing more with less) and I freely share all that I have learnt.
For those few departments that, for whatever reason, choose to go it alone, they are only hurting themselves and their communities. Working closely with neighbouring fire departments is a win-win for all involved and is also expected by our citizens and politicians.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just borrow a wheel and maybe make it spin better then pass on your improvements to others. Our department has been sharing with departments from all over Canada to our mutual benefit for many years now and we will continue to do so because, together we are stronger.
Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is the full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C., where he also manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @comoxfire.
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