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Company Officer Leadership: Community Safety Equals Firefighter Safety

Every morning, when firefighters don their station uniforms to begin their shifts, the commonality they share—regardless of geography or whether they're volunteer or career—is to protect citizens all across the world.

This protection comes in the form of EMS care, fire suppression and hazmat mitigation, to name a few. In proactive fire service organizations, the concept of community safety includes prevention, readiness, response and recovery.

Using structure fire as an example, firefighters all across the landscape pride themselves on being safety-minded professionals who quickly and effectively extinguish this often-routine event in an effort to protect property and restore some degree of normalcy to those affected by the fire.

In proactive organizations, members understand that prevention strategies are just as important as the response and activities that take place on scene. Moreover, these members comprehend that prevention efforts enhance both community and firefighter safety.

At the station level, the company officer plays a decisive role in ensuring both community and firefighter safety. The company officer has to effectively communicate to his or her crew the "why" of community safety on a more expansive level. (See the TEDTalk video "Start with Why" by presenter Simon Sinek.)

The fire service exists today to ensure the public maintains a certain quality of life and to quickly restore that quality of life when it's interrupted by an emergency. At the station level, implementing best practices that are in line with positive community-safety outcomes also enhances firefighter safety.

Best practices include fire-prevention education, home-safety highlights and preventive measures to reduce the need for urgent medical care. When these best practices are consistently, routinely exercised at the station level, there's a reduced need for firefighters to travel code-three to medical calls and a reduced occurrence of structure fires. Responding to and returning from emergencies and operating at structure fires contribute to firefighter morbidity/mortality, according to empirical research, so these reductions constitute a win/win for both the community and the fire service as a whole.

As professionals in the 21st century fire service, we now know via great data collection and empirical research many of the contributors that interrupt a stable quality of life in the communities we protect and live and work in. As company officers, it's our responsibility to lead the men and women who serve with us in a valiant attempt to promote community safety. By doing so, you also promote firefighter safety.

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