The IAFC has launched the much-anticipated Taking Responsibility for a Positive Public Perception (pdf, 2MB), the result of the association's Fire and Emergency Service Image Task Force. The document offers, in equal parts, a frank and straightforward discussion of the issues surrounding public perceptions of our industry, and tools and resources to support local action to promote a positive public image.
"The positive image of the fire service is something we can't take for granted anymore," said Hank Clemmensen, IAFC president and chairman of the board. "The truth is, the only ones who can ensure we continue to enjoy a positive public perception is us."
This resource and toolkit is a mix of existing and new resources from the IAFC, other fire service organizations, private industry and local model practices and SOPs. They range from simple, no-cost, common-sense solutions to those that are more resource-intensive. A companion discussion group has been established on IAFC KnowledgeNet to encourage members to discuss the issues in the document and continue to build a library of resources.
"From the outset, the members of the Image Task Force didn't want to just point out problems," said Chief Steve Westermann, task force chair and IAFC president 2007-2008. "We felt it was critical to create something that moved us from talk to action. We wanted to get a discussion going on the root issues of the challenges we're facing and, more important, to define action steps that we can take individually and collectively to ensure a positive public image."
Westermann cautioned that there may be some who find the discussion in the document uncomfortable—perhaps even get angry—but that's OK. "There is nothing in this document that we don't already know, even if we don't want to admit it," said Westermann. "The important thing is to get us moving in the right direction."
As operational and cultural leaders of fire departments, Taking Responsibility for a Positive Public Perception has much to offer chief officers. However, preserving the image of the fire and emergency service is not the work of only a few. "Preserving a positive public image is not something we fix and forget about," continued Clemmensen. "It's a daily and ongoing process by everyone on the team. This resource is meant to help get everyone pulling in the same direction."