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“The Ten Percenters; An Exclusive Club but its Doors are Open”


The Ten Percenters; An Exclusive Club but its Doors are Open

                        The best of the best. The hall of famers. The top performers. The ones you can always count on. The elite. Call them whatever you want, they are our best firefighters. Not only skilled and proficient; they are ethical, they don’t complain, and they unfortunately are often overlooked. Sometimes these guys do such a good job that we don’t even notice. We just expect them to be great. Instead, we focus on the underperforming employees or volunteers. Every department has a few firefighters who are in what I call, “The 10% Club.” As supervisors, we need to not only acknowledge and thank these top performers for their contributions; we need to figure out how to grow this “club” within our organizations. As I have indicated, the club is exclusive, its only filled with our very best, but, any firefighter can join. Here is a self assessment survey for firefighters to determine if they qualify for membership in the “club.”

  1. Training is considered an essential part of the job, not chore.
  2. “Early” is on time. “On time” is late.
  3. Compassion is shown for every fire victim and EMS patient regardless of how tired we are and how “routine” we consider the call.
  4. The day is spent checking and maintaining equipment and readying for the next call; not in the recliner.
  5. Fitness and nutrition are a normal part of their lifestyle. They recognize that firefighters are athletes.
  6. They are focused on teaching and training other firefighters. They serve as department mentors.
  7. They have the department’s S.O.G.s and pre-plans memorized.
  8. When gossip and negatively is being spewed at the kitchen table; they are nowhere to be found.
  9. They believe in the mission and always set a great example.

    10. They love the fire service. They live and breathe this career.

    11. Brotherhood is demonstrated; not just a t-shirt slogan or tattoo.

    12. They are leaders regardless of their rank.

    13. They show up every day with a great attitude.

    14. Operational excellence and an outstanding knowledge of fireground strategy and tactics is the norm.

    15. They are always honest and can be counted on to always make ethical decisions in the best interest of the organization.

    16. They are well read, lifelong learners.

    17. They don’t feel that they are “owed” anything. They work without any sense of entitlement.

    18. They want everyone to be successful and often help others achieve their goals.

    19. They have gratitude for the opportunity to put on the uniform every day.

    20. They understand that it’s all about service.


     So, you want in? You want to join the club? There are no forms to fill out, and no dues to pay. Just show up on your next shift and give it your best. Have bad habits? Change them. Have a poor attitude? Fix it. You are part of the greatest profession on the planet, why not be the very best at it? Start today; and welcome to the club. Chief officers; seek out these “Ten Percenters”, recognize them. Praise them. Thank them. Figure out how to duplicate them. Keep in mind, you can’t expect to have a “Ten Percenter Club” if you aren’t willing to lead it and be a member yourself.


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 departments website at






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