We've all heard it before: "There's no 'I' in team."
We usually do pretty well with this. After all, unlike our law-enforcement partners who frequently operate as individuals, everything we do is team-oriented. We fight fire as a team, we now use the pit-crew philosophy to work medical incidents and we operate at significant events as part of an incident management team.
This team mentality has gotten us through thick and thin, and it allows for the development of strong bonds between our teammates.
But what have we done to build our team outside our little world? Do you know who to reach out to?
Is it important? Are you proactive, or are you reactive, meaning you won't worry about it until the need arises?
It is important, you should be proactive and you should be working on building your team every day. You're probably already doing it internally, so you should be doing the same with your external teammates. And you have lots of external teammates.
With many of the national incidents of late, teamwork has never been more important. To start with, whether you're volunteer or career and a fire-based EMS system or not, you should reach out to your neighboring fire and EMS agencies. Understand what their capabilities are, what level of service they provide, how many resources they have and what it would take to activate them. These may be agencies in the next county or town; some of you may have to reach across state lines.
Your next teammate should be your local law-enforcement agencies; these include local, county and state troopers or police. Understand their policies and procedures on traffic accidents, crime-scene investigations, active-shooter incidents, evacuations, etc., and know what they expect of your agency in these situations.
The time to find out is not when the incident is occurring, so plan accordingly and if possible, get involved in joint trainings with each of these. Some of you may also need to reach out to federal law-enforcement agencies, such as FBI, DHS, U.S. Marshals, etc. This may be a little more difficult, but you'll find the benefits are well worth the effort.
Who's next? Your local utility providers (water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, etc.) are a critical part of your team. While they may represent special teams you won't use often, having working relationships ahead of time will solidify the operational needs when they arrive at your scene.
Another key teammate is the emergency manager. While their focus is typically on prevention and mitigation, they also have response and recovery responsibilities, and their network is phenomenal. As planners, they've already made the contacts necessary to acquire your logistical needs of fuel, food, water, port-a-potties, heavy equipment, etc., and they'll more than likely have emergency plans already in place for the threats your area typically faces.
There are many others, including but not limited to your coroner, local veterinarian, hospital, public works or transportation agencies, local public health, educational institutions (primary, secondary and colleges), nongovernmental organizations and private industry partners. They all hold valuable positions on your team.
We also can't forget about our military and tribal teammates, who each have specific abilities but also have specific rules they have to abide by.
We're all leaders in our fire and EMS teams, and it's easy for us to get caught up in our busy lives and think only about our internal team. It matters not whether you're fire-based, volunteer, third-service, hospital-based, nonprofit or for profit, because we can't do this by ourselves.
Hopefully, this has caused you to pause, if only for a moment, and think about what your team looks like. If you're truly leading your agency and striving to provide the best possible service in your community, I can guarantee you that you won't see an "I" in your team.