Company Officer Leadership: Emerging Role of the Fire Service

News headlines demand that fire departments "Reduce staffing, cut costs, operate efficiently, do more with less, wear more than one hat."

You've heard it all before. Our fire departments need to be able to combat such headlines and control them like we do a single-room and content fire.

The future of the fire and emergency service is changing and will continue to change, driven by society and the communities we serve. The new fire service is transparent, held accountable by residents and elected officials. These stakeholders expect public resources to be used effectively and efficiently and that programs and services will meet the needs of the community.

Fire departments traditionally have operated as single entities and only dealt with fires and emergency medical response. Although this trend is changing, it's still the norm in some areas. With the reduction of fires in buildings and the increase of emergency medical incidents, departments have to change the way they approach the job.

To combat this change, fire departments should review their mission to the communities they serve to make sure it meets the needs and direction of the department's strategic plan.

We as fire professionals have to bring something more to the table than serving the community by protecting life and property; although important, this isn't enough in poor economic times. We have to market and brand ourselves and show the value that we have to give to the community.

We do this by building relationships and trust with stakeholders in our community, civic groups, churches, leadership organizations and homeowner and business groups. We show this by providing data or outcomes of services we offer and by changing how we do business, using a proactive approach to bridge the gap between the fire service and corporate America.

Talk to anyone who will listen. Brag about what we do and use community events to build relationships. Teach about fire safety and public access defibrillation or just give an informative talk about the services provided.

Remember that many don't have a clue about all we really do.

Be visible in your community, and find ways to market and brand yourself. Lead, guide and direct in the community, and others will follow.

In the end, your value and commitment will be visible to all in the community you serve.

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