Chief Richard Carrizzo is the IAFC treasurer and chief of Southern Platte (Mo.) Fire Protection District, a career department with 4 stations and 43 staff, serving a population of 38 thousand. Chief Carrizzo has been in the fire and emergency service for 35 years and a member of the IAFC since 1992.
IAFC: Who or what inspired you to join the fire and emergency service?
Carrizzo: I have been around the fire service since I was about three years old, with my father. My mother’s family had always been involved with the volunteer fire department in New Jersey and up-state New York. When my father was transferred to Kansas City in early 1972, he immediately joined the volunteer fire department, where he advanced through the ranks to fire chief and was then elected to the board of directors. So it made my entrance into the fire service very easy as a cadet at age 16, for almost everyone already knew me from hanging around so much.
However, I had never planned to be a firefighter for a career, for when I left for college, I had planned to become a stock broker and had done some internships with a brokerage firm. But, as we all know, some plans are changed and I was hired by Lenexa (Kan.) FD and my paid career started, which then allowed me to finish my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Coming from a family of fire chiefs—my father, uncle, great uncle and great grandfather—I never thought that role was one I would aspire to be in. If given the chance to do it all over again, immediately I would, with only a few minor changes along the way.
What I would encourage officers and chief officers to do along their careers would be to have a strong network of mentors to provide an ear and guidance through their journeys. I've been very fortunate to have a strong group in the Kansas City Region, amongst some close friends and other mentors throughout the nation that assist and listen whenever needed.
IAFC: What issues keep you up at night?
Carrizzo: It's making sure that all members/employees are prepared with the knowledge, skill and abilities they must have today in order to be successful and safe. It's always a concern as to whether I've been able to provide them everything possible under my capabilities while keeping them safe. This includes providing them a safe and happy career and post-career. They bring the basic KSAs with them when they get hired, but you have to wonder and have faith that they prepared for a life of the fire service.
Determining early that a function is to ensure a safe career while having employees dedicated to the organization and community, well-balanced opportunities are needed. Thus, our organization provides external financial planning for them, which starts in recruit school and continues throughout their careers.
We have continued to adjust our physical health programs to meet their needs along with the organization's needs, all while remaining within the standards. One of the greatest assets in our overall career health programs is our employee assistance opportunities. We ensure that all members of the family are covered by this in order provide a happier family life off duty as well as on.
But constantly, I have to wonder if it's all enough and what else can we as an organization do to make sure employees are safe and enjoying their careers both inside and outside the organization.
IAFC: How has your IAFC membership helped you professionally or supported you in pursuit of your goals? The goals of your department?
Carrizzo: The IAFC has been my go-to organization since my father (a Lifetime member) introduced me to it, even before I became a chief officer. The opportunities it has provided me and my organization have put us ahead of others, not that it's a competition.
But as my community has changed over the years with rapid growth along with organizational growth, the knowledge and experiences I've gained by being a member and trying to be active, even before I ran as the Missouri Valley international director with the board of directors, has given so many tools to be ahead of the community as it changed.
I have been fortunate that my organizational fire district board has supported my active role in the IAFC and has seen the benefits that I've brought back. This has helped Southern Platte stay ahead and plan changes for the future; this has included standards, radio and communication issues, safety and many other topics and programs.
Realizing the benefits that I personally and professionally have received over the years has continued to push me to do more while giving back and getting others involved in the association. It's important to get others involved so they can become better leaders themselves. Department officers need to get involved with sections, committees and task forces, going to classes or even just networking with other members in order to grow professionally and help their own organization in the long run.