Firehouse Magazine

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Instructor John Dixon

Passionate, Relevant, and Current Knowledge Sharing For Your Department

3 Simple Ways to Improve Personal Accountability

3 Simple Ways to Improve Personal Accountability

We in the fire service should be very familiar with the term accountability. On the fire ground it’s referred to as performing a P.A.R. (personal accountability report) or roll call; and usually this report whether it’s communicated via the radio or through a face to face is to ensure that our crews are safe, where they are supposed to be, and that conditions are improving.

The textbooks all say to some varying degree the time interval as to when these reports shall be performed; usually it happens when there is a drastic change in conditions or the incident action plan. I would like to offer up a different perspective on this truly life saving tactic. Let’s take this vital action and bring it over into our personal lives. We all have goals that we are working hard to accomplish. We all have a desired outcome of some sort either personally, professionally, and spiritually.

Let’s all become better at holding ourselves accountable as well as those that are around us, those we can influence, and those within our circle of trusted friends and family. Let’s create a network of accountability partners.

Here are 3 steps to create an accountability network.

Step #1 - Take an inventory of your goals.

Sit down and write them out. I have written my goals on index cards and placed them in my direct line of sight in my office. It’s often easy to set aside a tough goal due to the fact that we may choose to pile on more and more goals losing sight of our original personal game plan. I find what works for me is to write them down and constantly look at them. This helps me to remain focused on the tasks at hand and not take on more work than I can handle effectively.

Step #2 – Create the network.

Select a group of trusted friends, colleagues, or family members. Communicate your goals to them and describe how you plan on achieving them. In the digital age that we all live in these days, there is no excuse for not being able to communicate. There are many ways for all of us to stay in touch. We have email, text messages, and social media outlets. I don’t care if you have to send smoke signals, but it’s imperative to create the network.

Step #3- Perform the accountability check.

Once we have a clear understanding of our desired goals and set up the network, the next step is to hold everyone accountable. Take 20 minutes on a selected day of the week by all in the network and call each other. Ask if the actions we have taken during the week have moved us further to accomplishing the goals we strive for. Ask if there is anything you can do to help those within the network to get them closer to the goal. We are all stronger together. Develop the teamwork mentality.

Ladies and gentlemen, in my opinion the only way we can become better is to seek continuous improvement. Build upon your successes brick by brick. Create that solid foundation so you may build a life of happiness. Do not let the negative insurgency in your thoughts. Defeat them at all costs. Your network will help you.

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We Are On The Same Team…Right?

We Are On The Same Team…Right?

The Fire Service is changing.  Yet, some would argue that it isn’t and we still hold true to our cultures, traditions, and mission.  I would like to offer up a different perspective – a view of which I’m certain that will receive ridicule from those who do not like change.  For the purposes of this discussion, let’s rephrase the word change and use a positive and powerful word: Improvement.

Civil War

There appears to be a civil war brewing among us.  The thoughts, actions, and communications between us seem to be nothing more than ideological rhetoric that gains traction only within specific factions – in defense of a particular facet of culture or ideology rather than for the sake of honest and respectful discussion.   There are lines being drawn and foxholes being dug, on whatever side of the proverbial line in the sand that we happen to be standing.  One of the root causes (of which there were many) of the American Civil War was the act of Sectionalism.  This can be further defined as a divide between economies, social structures, customs, and political values. The South perceived the encroachment of the industrialized and urbanized North as a danger to their culture and way of life.  The same can be said of our beloved fire service.

An encroachment of fire service improvement may be perceived as a threat to those of us who hold a staunch belief that no improvement is necessary to how we operate.  Those of us who hold on so tightly to our set of values, culture structures, and beliefs would lead us to believe that improvement is merely change and therefore, is dangerous.

We must fight the urge to dive into a territorial crisis.  There is no north or south in the American fire service.  There is simply one fire service nation, and we must not become divided. Imagining the alternative is simply unthinkable.  We must seek continuous improvement, and if that means we must change the way we operate, interact, and learn, then so be it.  Change for the sake of saying we changed something is neither constructive nor positive.  Improvement on the other hand, is always warranted and desperately needed.  So let’s all stop saying we need to change.  Let’s focus on improvement instead.

Social Media

The Fire Service Civil War is alive and active throughout all the social media platforms.  We don’t need to look very hard to see daggers being thrown at one another from our keyboards.  There are those who say that social media is a necessary evil and has created a genre of “light weight instruction”.  In many cases however, these are the same people that use the same platform to drive the wedge deeper – thus further propagating a “civil war” simply because we may not agree.

Where we get our information is just as important as who we are allowing to occupy our valuable brain time.  Social media is a change agent that is sometimes perceived to be bad.  The reality is, it has improved our communication.  The burden of “checking the resume” now falls on the reader instead of formal institutions such as academies, universities, and conference organizers that vet instructors on many different levels to ensure a quality delivery.

Who we choose to follow, like, and associate with says a lot about the type of firefighter we are.  Many of us have fallen into the social media “trap”, (myself included), but I didn’t let that change me.  Instead, I learned to improve my communication style.

The Oath

I, (your name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the State of (Name of state) against all enemies, both foreign and domestic, and I will faithfully and impartially discharge my duties as firefighter of the (name of department, city, township, etc.) under the appointment of the department according to the laws of the (State, township, county) to the best of my skills and abilities, so help me God.

There have been great debates on what the oath actually means.  While the wording is very straightforward, it is also somewhat subjective in nature.  Many of us have read or heard that it’s our duty to die for our citizens, that it’s our job to do so.  I challenge all of you to explain to me where in the oath that it’s expected of me to trade my life for that of someone else. If I should happen to die in the line of duty, it’s for a damn good reason and the circumstances were far outside of my control.  Yes, firefighting is inherently dangerous.  I accept that fact, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to trade my life for that of John Q Public under the auspices of tradition.

I have had the honor of taking one of the best oaths around.  When I raised my right hand and swore to protect a nation as a US Marine, that wasn’t a promise or an expectation that I would die in service to my country.  Rather, it was an expectation that I was going to make others die for theirs!  Again, I challenge anyone to show me where it says I’m willing to trade my life under the auspices of tradition.

The public demands that we are trained to the best of our abilities.  This is how we must interpret the oath. This is how we improve.

Same Team

We have brother and sister firefighters committing suicide at alarming rates, and we keep arguing about how to effectively apply water to a fire.  Heart disease and cancer rates are climbing, yet we argue about who or what agencies are receiving research funding.  We must remember that we are all on the same team; we all took the same oath!  It’s okay to have a difference in our passionate opinions.  But, we must rise above the rhetoric and improve upon how we talk and interact with one another.  

We must keep things in perspective with an objective to seek improvement.  I for one will be passionate about remaining positive and helping others to realize their full potential as firefighters and leaders.

Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument. – Desmond Tutu

Choose to improve and lift others up instead of tearing them down.

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Apologetic Passion

Apologetic Passion

Let's examine why it may be beneficial to be apologetic for having passion.

Many leadership guru's, foward thinkers, and thought provokers will say "never be apologetic" for having passion for whatever it is that you choose to pursue in life. Whether it's your career, hobbies, and even your personal beliefs, our passions may fall under intense scrutiny by those who do not share it with us.

I would like to offer up a different perspective. Let's call it "Apologetic Passion."

Let me be as clear as I can be; I will never be one to apologize for my passion but I will apologize to others because they have chosen not to embrace it. I have learned to become sorry for them. You see, we all have a choice each and every morning when we rise from our beds. It may sound cliché but the choice we must choose is to be better than we were yesterday.

Continuously seeking out improvement no matter how big or small it may be. This is known as the "Kaizen" way of life.

Complacency and low morale are like bacteria growing within the body. It's going to take like minded individuals who band together like white blood cells attacking the bacteria. Those who have been vaccinated against positive leadership either don't know it because they are trapped by a culture of default rather than a culture by design or they have made a choice not to seek help and are looking to infect others.

Those who choose the attitude of "talking the talk" will soon have their motives uncovered, while those who have chosen to "walk the walk" will continue to do so. Whether it it's behind the scenes or out in the open. Our passion will shine through and become contagious.

Eventually natural selection will take over. Those who make the choice to become better will do so and those who choose not to will hopefully be eradicated. Attitudes, behaviors, and passion are contagious.

Let's ensure that our attitudes, passion, and most importantly our actions are qualities worth catching.

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