Why are We Cell Phone Hypocrites?

Is that message or phone call really worth your life? Or someone else's life?

If it’s good enough for the employees of Exxon-Mobil—pay attention to driving and don’t talk on your cell phone—it’s certainly good enough for those of us in public safety—the people who have to deal with the aftermath of poor decisions that people make on a daily basis. Let’s all “get on the stick”: Hang up and drive!

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What does a future fire officer look like?


What traits do you believe make a firefighter a good candidate to promote to Company Officer? I asked several fire service colleagues the question: What traits to you look for in firefighters as potential company officers? Two of those colleagues, Fire Chief Bud Backer and Division Chief Susan Tamme, provided some really good insights back to me via e-mail. I could only use a few of their comments in the finished article, but the rest were so good I just couldn’t leave them on the “cutting room floor.”

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Storms, Public Safety, and Social Media


Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and others have become THE way that people share information and expect to get information before, during, and after a natural or man-made disaster. I truly believe that and I also believe this: any public safety agency that doesn’t understand and fully embrace my previous statement is going to have a “rough row to how” during and after their next “big one.”

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The Fire Service Change Agent

20160517_Marlene Bio Photo

Change has to become part of our culture, whether that is in the training we are currently using for seasoned staff or with the new generation of firefighters that are coming on board. Part of that desired change is diversity, yet it is a challenge in many professions, including our own, so how do we accomplish it?

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Ten Lessons Learned During my First Year as Fire Chief, Part II

Fire Chief Susanna Schmitt Williams

Be a leader not just a manager. Model the behavior you expect to see. Empower personnel to make decisions befitting their rank. When personnel and officers are given the freedom to do this with the expectation that they make decisions supporting the mission, vision, and values of the department and the town an amazing thing happens, they do the right thing every time.

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Ten Things I’ve Learned in My First Year as a Fire Chief, Part I

Fire Chief Susanna Schmitt Williams

I made it clear that I set the bar very high for myself and others around me. I had a brief moment where I thought of lowering the bar, but I quickly removed that thought from my mind. I kept the bar high and made my people “reach for it” and achieve it. Which meant that I then pushed it even higher! So my advice to chiefs is: Don’t be afraid to continually raise the bar. You will be amazed at what can be achieved.

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Women and minorities in the fire service need champions

20151012_AA Woman Firefighter

Male firefighters—for the most part—never think twice about seeking such positions, especially promotions, before they’re “ready.” Female firefighters, like their counterparts in most other professions, don’t actively seek promotions and the like until they feel they are “ready.” For the most part this is because of the male-centric aspect of our fire service culture that requires that a female firefighter has to work twice as hard and be twice as good as their male counterpart to “prove” themselves as being “worthy” of promotion.

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Firefighters and Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems

Fire sprinkler head active

Many people, especially those outside the fire service, believe that residential sprinkler systems cause more damage than the fire because we continue to let the builders and developers control the residential sprinkler agenda. Those same people do not know that sprinkler systems keep the fire from rapidly growing to the point that it can trap occupants or inflict substantial damage on the structure.

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Engaging Our People in the Fire Service

20160822_I love my job

People--especially those who enter the fire service--generally want to be successful and feel like they are making a contribution to the organization. Lack of clarity from their organizational leaders, and especially their first-line supervisor, in the form of clear expectations can be a significant "roadblock" to their success.

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I’m a fire service feminist

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Before the fire service can move forward in recruiting and retaining more women the overall culture in many organizations must change. We have to eradicate the "idea" that the fire service is a male-dominated vocation or avocation. Yes, right now that's a true statement because of sheer numbers and the fact that men predominantly occupy leadership roles in fire departments.

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