Firehouse Magazine

firehouse november2015firehouse april2015

Instructor John Dixon

Passionate, Relevant, and Current Knowledge Sharing For Your Department

The Human Element in Firefighting

customLogo

FIREHOUSE | Health & Safety Report | 2019

 

The human condition is often the most overlooked factor when examining fire service outcomes. At the street level, very little is discussed or understood of what makes us human. In taking a deeper look into our attitudes, behaviors, and culture, however, we can truly work at creating a positive environment for professional growth. The improvement of the human condition within the emergency services is relative to our specific paradigms. The Tampa Safety Summit in 2004 gathered many fire service stakeholders at various levels in their careers under one roof, in the same room, with one goal. After much deliberation, the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives were born and published industry-wide. While the context of each initiative is vital to understand, the one common factor that binds them together is the human element and our ABCs.

ATTITUDES

Our personal attitude is synonymous with our personal accountability. We must become better at accepting our roles within the organization as vital ones. The times of simply acting as a drone or a good foot soldier must come to an end. We must expect and demand the utmost in our people’s attitudes. A positive mindset can only be fostered by empowering others with positive surroundings such as access to quality training, formal education, and progressiveness. We are all in direct control of our attitudes, but we are also greatly influenced by the level of empowerment we receive from our leaders. The trickle-down effect of a positive culture will be a huge return on investment.

BEHAVIORS

Our behaviors are a direct result of our attitudes. It is impossible to have positive outcomes with our behaviors if our mindset is not cultivated. This is where a divide within the fire service can be seen. The behaviors of the older generations of firefighters differ in many ways from the newer generations. For example, Crew Resource Management may be understood as a direct challenge of authority. While the younger generation has been indoctrinated to ask questions, the older generation understands this to be a lack of a willingness to comply, thus the appearance of entitlement is born.

Personal growth comes from our attitude, behaviors, and culture!

CULTURE

For some time now, modern fire service culture has been gravitating toward the organization itself rather than the citizens we are sworn to protect. We are trying to remain relevant to our mission of life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation all at the same time as we are fighting one another on how to provide that service. We are creating an entirely new culture of self above others. The 2015 National Safety Culture Change Initiative found that “The culture of unsafe practices may be so deeply ingrained that efforts to change are viewed as challenges to fundamental beliefs, while other unsafe practices are created by the culture of the fire and emergency service as a whole.” This new paradigm of self above others would suggest that our emotions are still in control of our behaviors, therefore furthering the argument that our culture shapes our actions. This is why it is imperative to take caution in how we shape the future of the fire service.

Change

To understand change, we must examine the differences between incremental change and transformational change. Each type of change is a profoundly different experience. Incremental change is the result of rational planning with clearly defined goals. This change can usually be reversed if needed, which gives us the feeling of being in control. Incremental change involves using our knowledge and abilities. Deep change requires new ways of thinking and, most importantly, behaving. This change is generally irreversible and creates a situation in which we realize we don’t have the knowledge or ability. This requires that we lose control. How do each one of us understand and apply our actions?

The 16 Life Safety Initiatives provide a roadmap. How we choose to reach the destination is on us. The absolute constant in being human is that change is inevitable. Utilizing and implementing the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives in our decision-making matrix will provide clarity to our mission.

Continue reading
  1178 Hits
1178 Hits

Empowerment

IMG_0929

To better define empowerment and truly understand what this action is, we must fully understand what it is not. Stopping unsafe acts is directly impacted by our abilities to empower others to act; therefore we must also become empowered ourselves.

Empowerment is a very strong word. It can be said that this action is often met with great resistance because it allows for the transfer of power. “To empower is to enable, or to equip or supply with an ability” (Ford, 2012, p. 81). This action of giving authority to others is sometimes misunderstood. The American fire service has become much better in recent years allowing its members to step up and assume more responsibilities.

The very opposite of empowerment is micromanagement. This will cause many people and organizations to become stagnant. In order for empowerment to be embraced, we as a service organization must think along the lines of investment. Investing in our people is the best way to empower them. A great way of accomplishing a positive culture change is to employ the ABC’s.

Attitudes

We must expect and demand as a professional service the utmost in our people’s attitudes. A positive mindset can only be fostered by empowering others with positive surroundings such as access to quality training, formal education, and progressiveness. We are all in direct control of our attitudes but we are also greatly influenced by the level of empowerment we receive from our superiors. The trickledown effect of a positive culture will be a huge return of investment.

Behaviors

Our behaviors are a direct result of our attitudes. It is impossible to have positive outcomes with our behaviors if our mindset is not cultivated. This is where a divide within the fire service can be seen. The behaviors of the older generations of firefighters differ in many ways than the newer generations. The introduction of Crew Resource Management into the fire service is seen as a direct challenge of authority.

While the younger generation has been indoctrinated to ask questions, the older generation understands this to be a lack of a willingness to comply thus the appearance of entitlement is born.

Culture

The ability for empowerment to help stop unsafe acts is dependent upon our knowledge, skills and abilities. The development of KSA’s is directly impacted by the culture within our organization. “The foundation of the future lies in the concept of empowerment” (Ford, 2012. P. 82). Some may say that the fire service culture is doomed. These are specifically the people that would say empowering others is a mistake. They lack the understanding of evolution.

As an Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, it is my humble duty to pontificate the sixteen Life Safety Initiatives. The number one initiative is in fact calling for a cultural change.

Life Safety Initiative #1

Define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety; incorporating leadership, management, supervision, accountability and personal responsibility.


“It is important to understand that culture is either by design or default. Deviant behavior and actions are a result of learning the norms, values and beliefs of the organization as a whole” (Dixon, 2015).


In closing, many focus simply on kinesthetic actions in order to stop unsafe acts. In hindsight, many of the tragic outcomes could have been prevented. It is far easier to prevent a drift into failure than it is to correct. The development of our ABC’s is paramount in setting the trend of empowerment.

It does no one any good to keep correcting ourselves on the fireground from negative outcomes when we cannot control our own attitudes, behaviors and ultimately develop a more positive culture while we are back in the station.

References

Ford, T. (2012). Fire and emergency services safety and survival. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Dixon, J. (2015). The Normalization of Deviance. Firehouse Magazine, Vol. 40, N.10. p.49.

Continue reading
  2985 Hits
2985 Hits
Go to top