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Fire & Life Safety: Feed Your Lawn—Feed It!

So many responsibilities: things to do, meetings to attend, reports and memos to write, chainsaws to juggle and "fires" to put out—how do you get it done? Must be with that intuitive skill demonstrated by your performance of the In-Box exercise during your assessment center.

However it came to pass—tag, you're it! You're responsible for getting it done—and it includes fire prevention. Some folks in our business seem to have a knack for getting a ton of it done, leaving the rest of us thinking, "How do they do that? Is it an outstanding staff with equally outstanding resources? Do they simply not sleep? How can I get more done?"

Some keys may be in the secrets of the In-Box exercise: focus, prioritization and delegation.

Review and revise your focus and prioritization. This is helpful annually, monthly, weekly and daily for different topics and issues—sometimes hourly. It's also crucial in avoiding the ineffective and unproductive shotgun approach to our fire-prevention challenges.

  • Focus – What are the top three prevention issues facing your department today?
  • Prioritize – Which one is number one, based on life safety, community impact, etc.
  • Delegate – This is where the real work begins: finding interested people who are committed to improving and accomplishing the main fire-prevention issues affecting your community.

This is where we're able to select, develop and retain the best talent—leaders. They're everywhere in our organizations; we need to help them find their niche, equip and support them, and then let them get to work!

Our mission is to identify, train and coach emerging leaders to better serve the community's fire-prevention needs—regardless of rank. These are grassroots leaders who are passionate about making a difference and want to enhance the capability and capacity of the department to strengthen and improve their community. Find them based on their interest in a particular issue and coach them through such topics as:

  • Knowing the issue—both sides of the issue
  • Understanding leadership
  • Effective communication
  • Building partnerships and collaborations
  • Conflict resolution
  • Group decision making/problem solving

Who are our grassroots leaders? They're individuals who:

  • Probably don't have formal positions of authority to do it all on their own
  • Are interested in and pursue changes that benefit the group before self
  • Are motivated by their experiences and knowledge of the fire service and community safety

Their expertise may be in smoke alarms, child safety seats, portable heating devices, chimneys, dryer vents, helmets and even residential fire sprinklers! Find them, teach them, coach them and watch them use their background, experiences, training and passion to form coalitions, network, find outside funding and get stuff done.

Then have their backs! They'll need to navigate waters you're already familiar with as they face resistance from multiple directions—peers, those in positions of power and sometimes segments of the community. When you help them create networks and address dysfunction, it has an enormous impact on fostering current and future leadership.

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