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You Can Make a Dent

Joseph Kitchen, Bath Twp. Fire Department (Lima, Ohio)

            Have you ever felt as if your department was so broken that its problems could not be fixed? Or, have you ever felt like there were so many issues with the fire service in general, that nothing you could do would ever make a difference? If so, you are wrong. You can make a difference. You can motivate people. You can inspire others. You can improve your department's operations. No, I'm not saying that you can solve every problem. I'm not saying you can turn the department around totally on your own. But, you can make a dent. And if you make a dent, a few guys on your shift see that success, maybe they will make a dent. And maybe over a period of weeks, months, or even years, things will be headed in a better direction. 


Have you ever heard of a firefighter make any of the following statements?


  • ·         “No one cares what I think.”
  • ·         “Our department doesn't have support of our elected officials.”
  • ·         “Our fire chief has checked out.”
  • ·         “The old guys on the department don't want to do anything anymore.”
  • ·         “The young guys on the department think they are owed everything.”
  • ·         “The community doesn't even appreciate what we do.”


These are just a few of the statements I have heard over the years. Sometimes they have some validity, but most of the time they do not. Every department has its ups and downs. Morale ebbs and flows. It can be daunting to feel like the problems within an organization are bigger than any one person solve. And truthfully, it usually takes more than one person to solve the big problems. But as individuals, we can make a difference. We can make a dent.


It starts with attitude. It starts by being excited on your trip to the fire station in the morning. It happens when you walk in the door with a smile on your face, enthusiastic to start the day. It continues when you take pride in every task you are assigned, no matter how small. You can continue to make a dent every time you train hard, teach others, and mentor the rookies on your shift. 


Think about it this way. What if you make a dent every shift you work? That's 10 dents a month if you are on a 24 hour shift cycle. 120 dents in a year, not counting your overtime shifts. What if you could convince two or three other firefighters to do the same thing? Set some goals together. Get on the same page. Train and drill together. Don’t worry what others think or say – start being the change you want to see within your fire department.


To help your department improve, you must stay focused on the mission. No matter what words happen to be in your department’s particular mission statement, the ultimate mission is to save lives and protect property. If everything you do and say reflect positively on that mission, you will make a dent.


It doesn't matter if you're in a leadership position, you can still have a huge influence on your department. You may be surprised how much influence you can have on others. Again, you're not going to turn around the entire department single-handedly. But you can improve morale on your crew, and maybe your shift. If nothing else, people will stop including you in their negative rants. This in itself is a win for you.


2017 is a new year. Make this the year that you initiate change within your organization. It starts with having a positive attitude. It continues by remembering how lucky we are to work in this profession. It's important that we never lose gratitude for the opportunity to serve others. So, do you want to make a dent? All you have to do is walk in the station with a smile on your face, determination in your heart to serve others, and the desire to work hard. 


This is the greatest profession on Earth. Let's make 2017 the best, and safest year in the history of the American fire service. No, we can't fix everything…but we can make a dent.




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






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