The Value of Networking
Joseph Kitchen, Bath Twp. Fire Department (Lima, Ohio)
Spending time with our fellow firefighters is one of the best parts of this amazing career that we all are honored to be a part of. The relationships that we have within our own firehouse are paramount to our success and our growth not only as firefighters, but as human beings. We learn from each other on a daily basis. We train together, drill together, and experience the daily challenges of this profession. These relationships are extremely valuable, and are how firefighters have passed on knowledge for many generations. However, if our fire service education begins and ends within our own fire stations, we may be missing out on a tremendous amount of information. It is so important that we venture out beyond the walls of our individual firehouse, and spend time with other firefighters. We need to be in contact with departments outside of our jurisdictions, in our regions, states, and the nation.
The following is list of reasons why firefighters should be networking and how to network effectively:
MAKING NEW CONTACTS: Wouldn’t it be great to have a stack of business cards of fire service professionals that you could reach out to when you have a question? Being able to have numbers, e-mail addresses and other information in your smart phone is a truly valuable asset. There is a very good chance that someone; somewhere has been faced with an issue or challenge that you are currently facing. Having the ability to reach out to people can be extremely beneficial. Get out of your firehouse and meet new people.
DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS: Expanding your circle of fire service friends and colleagues is important because we never know what the future will hold. Future employment or training opportunities may arise that could be mutually beneficial for both parties. Perhaps you will cross paths in an actual emergency situation. Knowing people and having a relationship in place will help ensure that the event is mitigated efficiently. It’s much easier to solve a problem or deal with an issue when you know the parties involved.
BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS: We all have ideas for programs we would like to initiate within our organizations but lack the resources or personnel to effectively implement them. By partnering with other agencies, you may be able to successfully launch a program that you would be unable to do on your own. These partnerships often lead to a greater ability for us to serve our communities.
SHARING INFORMATION: Even the most studious and engaged firefighter can’t absorb all of the data that is available. Networking with others allows us to share information and ideas. Development of policies, rules, guidelines, and procedures are examples of the benefits of information sharing. Often, other firefighters are aware of new laws or standards before we have had a chance to learn them. Networking with others gives us the opportunity to gain valuable information we may have otherwise missed.
GET ADVICE: Sometimes we just need to talk. Reaching out to people who may not be in your inner circle can be very beneficial. Although communicating with our fellow department members is important, sometimes we need to hear from someone who is a neutral third party. Having the chance to bounce something off of a colleague from another agency can give you a new perspective.
LEADS TO OPPORTUNITY: The more people you know: the more doors that will open for you. If you truly want to grow your fire service career, networking with firefighters from throughout your region and across your state is a great way to do it. Future jobs, teaching and training opportunities, and other benefits may become more readily available to you if you widen your circle through networking.
OBTAIN ASSISSTANCE. Sometimes we need help. We never know what the future will bring. We could easily find ourselves or our department in a tough situation. It certainly helps to have a network of people to reach out to when this happens. Firefighters love to help each other, it’s what we do. Expanding your list of people you can reach out to will pay huge dividends should you find yourself in need.
MAKE FRIENDS: If you are like me, your best friends are firefighters. We love talking about fires, firefighting, fire training, and the fire service. If the only thing you get out of networking is making more friends, then I believe you will have been successful. Firefighters are fantastic people and I don’t think we can ever know enough of them.
POSITIVE INFLUENCE: Keep in mind that networking isn’t only for our own benefit. The ultimate goal is that the relationship is mutually beneficial to both parties. We chose this profession to help others and networking gives us the opportunity to do that for other firefighters and fire departments. That’s what this awesome career is all about; serving others.
Joseph Kitchen, OFC, is the Chief of the Bath Twp. Fire Dept. (Lima, Ohio.) He began his career in 1990 and has served as fire chief since 2002. He holds degrees in EMS and fire science, and in 2012 was named “Fire Officer of the Year” by the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety. Follow Chief Kitchen on Twitter @bathtwpchief and visit his department’s website at www.bathtwpfd.com