It’s All About Service
Joseph Kitchen, Bath Twp. Fire Department (Lima, Ohio)
The life of a firefighter/paramedic can certainly be challenging. Long hours, difficult calls, working nights, weekends, and holidays can take a toll. For company officers, managing day to day operations and keeping the troops working together in harmony is often difficult. For chief officers the political pressures and budgetary issues can cause stress for many. Recently, our department went through a difficult period due to a staffing issue that required changes on all three shifts and placed new responsibilities on several firefighters. I found myself focused on this one issue all day every day. I was concerned about recruiting personnel, getting new firefighters trained, moving employees to different shifts, and all of the other problems associated with employee turnover. These issues were on my mind day and night. I was feeling apprehensive one day and angry the next. Then I remembered something that I had learned many years ago, and that I have tried to teach new firefighters and company officers for a very long time; that this career is all about service. That’s it. Very simply, it’s about service to the community. No matter what challenges we face, we cannot lose focus on the fact that when people call, they want, need, and deserve our help. They don’t care if we are tired, or having a bad day. They aren’t concerned about the current state of affairs within our organization, they just want us to respond and help solve their problem.
It’s all about service and nothing else. We took an oath to serve our fellow man, this is our true purpose; service with the needs of others above our own. Compassionate service; on every call no matter how serious it may seem to us. Our residents don’t care about union/management issues. They don’t care about internal fire department issues. They don’t care if we are hungry, tired, if we are working an overtime shift, or are assigned to a truck we don’t enjoy. They really don’t even care if the units responding are from another district or jurisdiction. In that moment they want and deserve our full focus and attention. They want to receive the service that we are pledged to provide.
I am disappointed in myself that for a short period of time, I lost my focus. I was spending all of my time, effort and energy solving internal issues. I was caught up in not only real problems that needed solutions, but also the drama that accompanies personnel issues within our agencies. I was lucky that after about six weeks, I was able to get myself back on track, not take these changes personally, and get back to what I am really supposed to be providing; service to our community. I am a public servant.
We must remember that the everyday issues and challenges within our fire department’s that may trip us up and throw us off of our game are just a part of normal life. As long as there are human beings involved, we will have conflict, we will have personnel issues, and we will have change. Morale will ebb and flow. Things will be great, then good, then bad. Not everything about this career is easy. But one thing remains constant; it’s all about service. We must be committed to never losing sight of that fact; it’s our most important objective. It is our mission. It’s our duty. This job is really, at the end of the day, only about one thing: service.
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