" Hey Chief, I just punched Firefighter Smith in the face because I didnt like the way he looked at me" Chief - "Ok, well try not to do it again". "Chief, I got caught driving DUI again and lost my License this time for 60 years" Chief - " Ok, well try and do better" "Chief, although you received a medal for saving the whole town and everyone under the sun thinks you did an outstanding job, I think you are the worst because you didn't take my advice and let me do what I wanted to do at that fire" Chief - "well I'm sorry you feel that way, I will try and do better next time"
Sound familiar? I find it amazing in a Para Military organization like the fire department, this is what is happening. What happened to the Chief's of the 50's, 60's 70's and even early 80's who either came out of the military with an understanding of discipline or knew what it meant to be a strong leader? Has PC really started to take over our beloved fire service? How many F.D.'s do you know where everything is done by a committee? The Chief never makes the final decision, it is done by the will of the membership. Better yet, how many departments do you know of that still promote not only their officers but their Chiefs by a vote? How archaic is that? So the new kid who (hopefully) just made it through FF 1 and buys everyone the first round when they go out, is now elected an officer, a Chief? Members are now going to put their trust and more importantly, their lives into this persons hands because they are popular? Really, this is 2014 right???
Lets go back a bit. Your the Chief and you have 1 or 2 members who are constantly in trouble, just want the lights and sirens on their POV and really don't care about the department or being a part of the team. Do you haul them into your office and tell them to either knock it off or exit through the front door, or do you, like so many Chiefs of today, have an third or fourth "Intervention" with them? Do you have the "lets get our feelings together and find a solution to the problem" talk? What happened to the days when you either towed the line or the next person out there waiting for your job now had a new career?
How often have you heard a Chief today say that they have to be careful how they discipline someone because they are afraid the individual might be "offended" and quit? Seriously, in an organization where you need to depend on one another with your lives, your going to be careful because someones feelings might get hurt? When I first got into the fire service that was called grow up and do your job or hit the road. Those of you old enough might remember the old saying around the firehouse 'the Chief takes resignations between 9 and 5 and the door is always open" How many departments do you know, that are in such turmoil, moral is in the toilet and the cliques have taken over the department? How does this all happen? Well, it starts at the top with a weak Chief. I experienced this first hand myself in the department I spent 20 years in. The chief was so weak that the "inmates" totally ran the "asylum" Moral could not have gotten any lower, members ran amok doing what ever they felt like. Those members who wanted to be Firefighters and loved the job were chastised by those who really didn't care as long as they got a pay check, they were made fun of and laughed at.
We have lost our way unfortunately and now have a crises in our departments and it starts at the very top. I know I am going to receive a lot of hate mail because of this blog but its time to wake up. Our firefighters want strong leadership, they want a leader who is going to make decisions without hesitation, without worry of whose feelings get hurt and someone who is going to lay the law down, drawn that red line in the sand and stick by it. As a Firefighter, you should fully be aware that if you screw up, your heading for the Chief's office. I dont mean the Chief that yells and screams about every little thing or has the big man mentality. I mean the person who lays the rules down and enforces them and better yet, the rules are not made by a committee of members.
Maybe, just maybe, should we start appointing well disciplined Chiefs, we will no longer hear the rumors about our department or the neighboring towns where no one gets along, the department is split into two factions or cliques, that everyone it Anytown think they are better than any other department in the country or that members are on leave for investigations. Maybe.