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There has been a lot of talk recently, the last few years especially, about the culture of the fire service. There have been all kinds of cultures thrown around: a culture of safety, a culture of extinguishment, a culture of tradition, a culture of nexters, etc. I think you get the point.

I'm going to keep this short.

First, cultures are created over long periods of time by attitudes, beliefs and habits. Cultures of anything are not easy to change or fix, if that is the problem.

When I teach instructors and officers, I implore them not to go into a new position, crew, shift or house with the objective of changing the culture; it's just too big of a "thing."

Instead, in order to change or alter any culture there has to be a concerted effort to change individual attitudes, behaviors and habits. You have to chip away at the stone piece by piece to change the size of the boulder that is culture. It doesn't happen over night and it is never easy.

Second, why are we so hell bent on insisting that our culture has to be one way or the other? Why can't there be a mix of cultures in our fire service like we have in our everyday life?

Too much of any singular type of culture is short sighted and limits us to a narrow path. This job does not allow for that.

So, I hereby proclaim that the fire service needs a Culture of Proficiency. ([a high degree of competence or skill; expertise]Google) If we train, educate, follow our guidelines, put water on the fire and not get ourselves in bad places without a line, read buildings, drill constantly with purpose, prepare our people for as many situations as possible, wear our PPE the correct way on all calls, and yes, even wear our safety vests on the highway; I would argue that we can still be aggressive firefighters, saving lives and property AND be safer without compromising firefighting traditions and the need to put ourselves in harms way when those situations require it.

It all goes together. Just my opinion.

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Comment by Jeff Rampe on September 27, 2013 at 11:18am

Hello Jason,

Great advice on a topic that seems to be misunderstood in the fire service. I personally believe that there are cases where a culture of an organization needs to be changed. However, this needs to be done with a long term vision and strategic plan in place. I enjoyed your analogy of chipping away at a boulder because I think that effectively depicts the time and effort needed to change a culture with positive results. Great Blog!

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