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Volunteer Vision: Raise your game

March 11, 2022
By Tom DeSorcy


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Many have heard me say that “it’s always fun to practice, but you like to play a game once in a while.” So, in keeping with the sports reference, how is yours? Your game, that is. Is it at the level you want it to be or is there room to move up? I would hazard a guess and say there’s always room.

I have spent the last 22 years in a leadership position with the same fire department, bringing it from three organizations into one, and watching as generational change helped create the service that we have today. I’m happy to report that I’ve seen our game go in the right direction.  

The idea around raising one’s game is all about change. A topic that for some is difficult to undertake. However, if it’s positive and for the better, then it can easily become game changing.  

The one thing I’ve found when you up your game to another level is that there is no room to go down. Climb up another rung and that’s where you stay.  In fact, there really is only one direction and that’s up.   Start to do something more in your fire service response and it becomes the norm, especially if it makes you better.  

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Granted, like many small-town fire departments, we are simply not able to do it all. Over the years, however, we have grown and gradually added skills, putting ourselves in a position to play at a higher level. In the beginning, I quickly realized that the members needed to drive that change. I simply just had to be there with support and resources as necessity is often the road map to change. Recognizing as well that necessity may be the talent, but execution really is the skill. 

A prime example for us from an operational perspective is the fact that historically our department has not always been involved in medical first response. Trying early on to move in that direction turned into a “I didn’t sign up for this” moment. As time and members moved on, we did, however, begin responding to public assists with the paramedic service until one time a routine assist became more serious and our people were simply unable to help out any further, as it was outside our scope of practice.  This turned out to be the tipping point.  

The members felt as though their hands were tied and came to me with a request for change. We set up the training and protocols and began to license our members as medical first responders. We gradually added more equipment and training, and our ability to make a difference increased along the way. It wasn’t about adding more to our plate, we simply made ourselves better and, in turn, raised our game.

Another example was when we created a weight room in one of our fire halls. Believe it or not, there is still a generation out there in the community that looks upon the addition as if it were a gym in a fancy hotel. Truth be known, we took a room with a pool table and social space and turned it into a workout space. The obvious positives are physical fitness and mental wellbeing of our members. The extra is the fact that people are often at the hall for workouts and ready to respond. 

Communities grow and levels of service grows along with it. Once you and your team recognize the need for change, it makes it that much easier. Proof is justification and you will find out that the smallest of alterations can make a huge difference. Think of the time you got rid of the 1970s turnout gear and joined the 21st century with new stuff.  That memory reminded me of the time when, as a minor hockey player, we received our first team jerseys. Was that ever a big day. We may not have realized it at the time but it raised our game.  

Handing over the wheel that drives the need to change does make your job easier. The fire chief doesn’t always have to come across as the idea person or the one that always looks for a better way. Obviously, we all know you do, but it’s an easier sell when those better ways come from within. The good leaders bring those ideas to the forefront. 

Changing or more importantly, raising your game is simple and with little improvements you can easily step it up a notch. It doesn’t take monumental or drastic moves to create game changing results. Even with a little out of the box thinking, improvements can and will come. The key to change is the recognition and appreciation of what it does or, more importantly, what it can do for your department. From morale, to response and service provision, change helps keep your team in the win column.  


Tom DeSorcy became the first paid firefighter in his hometown of Hope, B.C., when he became fire chief in 2000. Originally a radio broadcaster, Tom’s voice could be heard in the early 1990s across Canada as one of the hosts of Country Coast to Coast. Tom is very active with the Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia as communications director and conference committee chair. Contact Tom at TDeSorcy@hope.ca and follow him on Twitter at @HopeFireDept. 


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