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Instructor John Dixon

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Accountability Issues - Who are we accountable to?


FIREHOUSE | Health & Safety Report | 2018

We need not listen too hard before we hear the loud beat of the proverbial accountability drum in today’s fire service. There are many organizations devoted to ensuring that individuals and organizations alike are emphasizing the importance of accountability. But are we all on the same page? What actions are attributed to the path of continuous improvement? Let’s analyze how we are accountable, not only to ourselves but also to the organizations to which we belong and, ultimately, the public we swore an oath to protect.

Personal Accountability

Mission, vision, and values comprise the foundation of a solid fire department. Naturally, one of the hardest, yet most rewarding, accountability actions an individual can perform is completing a personal mission, vision and values statements. Not many emergency service members have them, but developing these statements is the first step among many others toward holding ourselves accountable.


Enhance the personal and organizational accountability for health and safety throughout the fire service.

It can be said that the fire service is a large jigsaw puzzle of which we are only a small piece. So how do we know where we fit? We must remember that, first and foremost, we are accountable to ourselves. We are faced with many trying decisions during our careers. It is therefore vital for our future success that we know our “why,” as this must serve as the backbone of our decisions. 

Organizational Accountability

Sometimes we focus so much on our service delivery to the public that departments can forget that their greatest assets are the people. Organizations can enhance accountability through three primary approaches: 1) education, 2) physical and psychological health and 3) ownership.

Education: Knowledge is power. Is the organization doing everything it can to ensure that its members are learning, on and off the fireground? If your department doesn’t have the resources to provide continuing education and training, there are free tools available. The Fire Hero Learning Network
( offers free virtual training programs on topics like Stress First Aid, Communication and Mentoring for Company Officers, and a newly released module on Automatic Fire Sprinkler and Alarm Systems.

Physical and psychological health:
Physical and psychological health is vital for accountability. The NFFF has partnered with outstanding organizations to enhance our understanding of the physical and psychological needs of firefighters.

Ownership: We must hold our organizations accountable for prioritizing our ownership of our health and safety. Are we willing to accept that our organization may be vulnerable or drifting toward a preventable injury or LODD?

The Vulnerability Assessment Program ( is a tool to help organizations identify gaps in resources and service capabilities, with resources to address those gaps. Developing protocols to help eliminate exposure to carcinogens is a must. Final thoughts Do you wash your gear often? Does the organization provide methods of control?

Final Thoughts

Do you wear your SCBA during overhaul? Does your department mandate it? In order to improve personal and organizational accountability, we must challenge ourselves and ask tough questions. If it feels uncomfortable, good; that means there is room for improvement.

Accountability takes courage—a trait firefighters pride themselves on. That courage works both ways, to hold ourselves and our organization accountable for getting everyone home.

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