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Hump Day SOS - Urban Fire Dictionary: SOP

This SOP is not for me to follow it must be for you…….Oh yes, well I know I wrote it, but I never intended to actually follow it……….I meant for you to follow it……well if you want too. The main thing here is that if something happens I can say that I had an SOP in place and you didn’t follow it so I won’t be liable!”

How many SOP’s do you have on the books that are nowhere near the reality of the way things are done? How many are so old that you don’t even carry the hose jacket any more to be able to soak it on truck day? Unfortunately if you are in that situation then the SOP's that you do use and need are somewhat diminished in the minutia of clutter. Is there anything worse than the old SOP still being on the book? Well, yes there is. A disturbing new trend of policy creation for the sake of gaining national certifications or accredited status. Some departments, in their haste for a decal, forgo the laborious task of policy creation by subject matter experts within the organization and opt for the more cookie cutter (cut and paste) off the internet tactic. This way any office staff member can become the author of a departmental SOP in an area or subject that they have never even lied about being in or having knowledge of.

When SOPs are developed this way and then implemented with a key board stroke in the email server, (SEND) TO: ALL PERSONNEL……EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY………………..blah…blah….blah…….. This is really not so effective. After all, there was not much thought in putting them together so why should those expected to now live by it feel obligated. Reminds me of the latest Miranda Lambert song “Automatic”- “Hey, whatever happened to waitin’ your turn, doin’ it all by hand, Cause when everything is handed to you, It’s only worth as much as the time put in”

The rank and file know immediately on first read if the author knew anything at all about the subject and if the SOP will even work in the organization. The problem with the plug and play - cut and paste SOP is that the culture or resources in one organization may not support the SOP as written for another. The SOP needs to be developed from within the organization so that the organizational knowledge can be incorporated ensuring that it makes sense and is functional. This doesn’t restrict outside influence or change in an organization but knowing the organization helps in crafting a document that is not in a foreign language.

Remember you can’t fix 50 years of organizational problems with one SOP and you can’t get the troops to adhere to emails just because they are sent from above (HQ not Heaven). Purge the useless SOPs and narrow the scope to those necessary to operate. Its o.k. to borrow simple policy from another organization but beware of adopting operational procedure from an organization that doesn’t function like yours. Having a policy that you never intend to follow is worse than not having a policy at all! Writing a policy for an organizational certification that is implemented with the “SEND” button or better yet, just slipped in place in the “book of policy” and never discussed, should be illegal in all states. Since I’m on a country music comparison here I will close……. “You got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, no when to walk away, you gotta know when to run………………….”

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