An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. –Chief B. Franklin
Have you heard this before? "We're volunteer/combination. We're just too busy. We would like to do that, but there isn't time in the day to fit it in."
Maybe you've heard, "We can't be here all the time; we would like to, but there are these other commitments like family, job, golf, softball, etc."
You and I have some amazing ideas of what we would like to see our organizations get involved in or do more of. However, we all have a finite amount of time.
This is where your leadership traits kick in. We'll accomplish much more, much faster and much better, if we all participate as a team. Many hands make light work, right?
Where is time being spent? Can some of it be recaptured or refocused to be more productive for the community and the department?
With your mission statement, department values, community need/impact/value/image, etc., as a guide, measure what is and is not getting done and where time is being spent now that could be focused on a higher-priority topic. Doing this will take some time and should have a lot of fingerprints on it.
Some things we can and should be doing that meet all of these criteria can be easily overlooked: preplanning, company inspections, tactical assessments of fire operations in these buildings to be reflected in training.
The value of these activities to the community and staff is immense; reducing or eliminating time invested in other areas in order to make progress on these needs to be a definite priority.
Preplanning is an invaluable opportunity to get our members familiar with target hazards, high-risk buildings and unique hazards. At the same time, it gets them out into the community, building relationships with the owners and operators of those facilities—great opportunities to promote prevention, build partnerships and further community relations and support.
Regardless of what form you use or format you keep it in, the time spent in these facilities is well invested.
Company inspections provide another not-to-be-missed opportunity for firefighters and company officers to get into their local buildings and interact with the owners and operators. A simple checklist-style form that includes updating after-hours contact information is all that's needed.
Start with small businesses and see where it goes. Keep the focus on education and prevention, interact with the community and build smarter and more prepared firefighters at the same time.
One result of preplanning and company inspections is a list that is just for our use. It includes itemizing specific tactics and tasks that may be required during an incident at these facilities. This is the double-bonus round!
Company officers and firefighters walking through a building, talking about tactics and tasks that would be needed in those circumstances, listing them in detail and brining them back to be rolled into training—that is time well spent!
Be forewarned: this may cause an increase in interest and participation, further knowledge and ability, improve effectiveness and safety of operations and result in positive community relations and incident outcomes. Let's spend our time wisely.