How Captains Can Improve Their Firehouses

How Captains Can Improve Their Firehouses

Tuesday, 01 August 2023 21:18

Travel to any small country village, town, or large city, and sooner or later, you will drive by the area's firehouse. The fire station, whether it be a remote wildland fire crew station or a multiple-layered urban complex, is a very important part of any community's fabric.

All across this country are thousands of firehouses and a multitude of firefighters, including both volunteers and paid staff, who typically spend almost as much time at the firehouse or with their crew than they do at their homes or with their families.

The professionals at StreetWise® understand the importance of a well-run and highly-motivated crew that is assigned to individual firehouses all across the country and is an integral part of the overall firefighting profession.

The fire officer or chief is responsible for the well-being, cohesiveness, effectiveness, and morale of the entire crew and must always be actively involved in improving their firehouses.

Captains Can Improve Their Firehouses

Fighting fires is a physically exhausting and risky job that requires training, professionalism with crews, motivation, and high morale to be effective, and it is the job of the shift officer or chief to ensure that the crews they are responsible for are given what they need, whether it be resources or proper leadership, to safely do their jobs.

Fire services spend millions of dollars every year to improve the infrastructure of firehouses all across the country, which is very important to provide the resources needed for firefighters to do their jobs in an effective and safe manner; however, improving infrastructure does not, in its own merit, improve a firehouse if the human factor is not affected positively.

The most important resource in any organization for improved conditions is leadership. This is especially important in stressful jobs such as firefighting, where leadership can effectively improve or destroy the entire work environment, especially in hazardous work environments. It is, therefore, most important for the officer to first focus on leadership qualities and skills before anything else to improve the firehouse.

Leadership Qualities That Can Improve the Firehouse

Leadership styles in the fire service are constantly evolving, and it is vital for leaders to be open to feedback and development to lead their teams in the most effective way possible. Each leadership style has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation, and one style may be more appropriate for one leader than another. 

However, certain traits and behaviors are common among successful firefighter leaders:

  • Successful leaders stay calm: Good leaders should be able to communicate effectively with their team without becoming overwhelmed by the situation. 
  • Successful leaders practice accountability on the job: Good leaders should be direct and clear in their communication and hold their team members accountable for their actions without being overbearing or overly punitive. It is essential that a leader first ask questions and see whether the incident or situation in question can be used as a teaching lesson and then proceed accordingly.
  • Successful leaders develop interpersonal skills: Good leaders must find common ground among team members, create a safe and comfortable workplace, and foster an open and constructive dialogue between their members. As any leader will tell you, at times, this is much easier stated than done. The fire service is steeped in tradition, and some firefighters are less open to change than others. Finding common ground can be exhausting, but worth the effort.
  • Successful leaders communicate well: Good leaders must effectively exchange information and directives with their team, remain open to feedback, and listen to each team member's input.
  • Successful leaders are willing to go above and beyond: Fire department leaders must be willing to put in the extra effort to ensure the team's success, even if it means they work more hours or put more energy into their job than others.
  • Successful leaders must always strive for excellence: Good leaders set high standards for themselves and their teams to ensure that tasks are done safely, effectively, and efficiently. Embracing excellence is the hallmark of successful firefighter leaders. 

Utilize Proper Leadership to Improve the Firehouse

By focusing on proper leadership and investing directly in the crew, an officer can positively affect the firehouse by influencing the crew itself. Utilize the following principles to make a positive influence on your crew. 

1. Be open to diversification

Be mindful that diversifying your organization is a viable and necessary component to broadening and maximizing human resources. Not only are you creating opportunities for those who might not have otherwise had them, but you are creating the space for greater innovation and more effective and efficient problem-solving.

2. Meet team members where they are

Every person has different goals, objectives, motivators, and interests. Members of the organization are at different life stages (starting families, putting children through college, retiring, etc.), which means that supervisors must be mindful when making decisions that directly or indirectly impact personnel.

It is an officer’s responsibility as a leader to support your crew members in their growth and development, even when your vision for the member may not match or align with the member’s personal vision for themselves. It is alright to modulate and customize career plans that best suit the individual member within the confines of the overall organizational structure. 

3. Encourage involvement

Create an atmosphere that encourages involvement at all levels regardless of tenure and/or experience. Leaders must remember to be flexible regarding the methods with which projects are completed. Encourage, allow, and support creativity, innovation, and out-of-the-box thinking.

4. Establish positive environments

Leaders must work to establish an affirming, encouraging, positive, and supportive work environment for all members. Create and sustain an organizational culture that is diverse, inclusive, thoughtful, respectful, proud, honorable, and professional.

5. Set an example

Leaders should always set a proper example for the crew. Understand that your words are important, but your actions are where the truth lies. This is where your leadership makes the most difference, for better or worse.

6. Practice patience

This is true firstly with yourself as an ever-evolving leader. It’s vital to understand that regardless of where you are in the arc of your career, there is still much to learn about the art and science of leading others. You must remain open and available to learn from even the least experienced on the crew.  

Secondly, be patient with those you have voluntarily accepted the responsibility to serve, guide, teach, mentor, and coach.

By applying these six leadership tips, officers can improve their firehouses by improving the overall crew effectiveness, cohesiveness, and morale which will make for a better work and living environment in the firehouse.

StreetWise®: A Public Safety Information Services Company

StreetWise is a public safety information services company located in Terrell, North Carolina. StreetWise is an elite group of progressive, like-minded investors, managers, technical developers, and advisors that form the parent company, Hangar 14 Solutions, LLC.

It is their close and ongoing career experience with public safety that led to the development of this project concept. Hangar 14 Solutions has identified first-hand the gap in getting critical response information into the hands of emergency personnel.

If you would like more information on the services offered by StreetWise, check out our website or reach out to us with questions