If you are half a century old, give or take a few years your morning rituals may include listening to talk radio as my daily rituals include.
During a recent daily commute I was listening to an AM talk radio show when the host stated that bipartisanship amongst the United States political parties was at an all time low. He went on to explain that bipartisanship was at an all time high until Newt Gingrich the 58th speaker of the United States House of Representatives took office. He then went on to articulate how Mr. Gingrich made a policy that once the members of the house completed their business for their session the parties would go back to their respective states. They could not remain in Washington to network with the other political party on Uncle Sam's dime.
Mr. Gingrich thought his policy was sure to save American tax dollars and that it was the responsible thing to do. What he did not figure into the equation was the power of relationship building or trust. Trust is formed over time with relationship building. Creating a relationship is hard to do if one does not put out effort into face to face time with others.
Under past leadership the two main political parties would stay in Washington a few days and have dinner with each other, including their families. No doubt exchanging ideas and gaining a better understanding of the other party's agenda occurred. This face to face time also created trust and forged stronger relationships over party lines.
When this relationship building process was severed bipartisanship began to grow into two solitary parties with increasingly different ideologies. In this radio hosts' opinion this separation created a strain on team work and resulted in a stalemate with many national decisions.
So what does bipartisanship have to do with fire prevention? Mr. Webster defines bipartisanship as consisting of, or supported by members of two parties trying to find common ground. Although fire prevention and fire operations are on the same team and have the same objectives they haggle and barter over budgetary issues, staffing and capital items.
Over my near quarter of century in the fire service I have seen fire prevention working with line personnel on more routine schedule. It has not always been this way for me.
For my first decade in the fire service I was unaware of what these strange characters called fire prevention professionals actually did. I would see them after a fire and on occasion in their office. I was scared to say hello because I did not want to catch what they had!!I had little contact with them and had no idea what information that I noted in the field would be beneficial to their goals. There was in my opinion little information passed between us about unique building problems and fire prevention issues.
So what has changed? In this last decade I have been privileged to work with fire administrators and fire prevention personnel that understand the value of a strong fire prevention program. They also understood how interactions between these two groups are paramount.
In the recent past our fire inspector and fire marshal actually ate lunch with the line crews. I realized during this time I would not catch what they had. Although now the dormant fire prevention bug eventually caught up with me and I inspect on a part time basis. My fire inspector would actually ask the crews "what I can do for you." The fire marshal made the mistake of stating "call me any time for any reason." This statement has increased his workload exponentially. The point being that these fire prevention professions were and still are very much engaged with their line personnel. Ideas are exchanged and all members of both groups learn something. We may be in different bureaus but we are working together for common ground. These two fire prevention individuals mentor me as a newly appointed fire inspector today.
Here are some examples how we as fire prevention professionals can build trust and exchange important information for common ground with line personnel.
1. Safety meetings: make sure to attend your departments' scheduled safety meeting as directed by NFPA 1500 chapter 4. Share all relevant safety issues. Be prepared to share information on unique buildings and possible hazards directly to the line personnel. Utilize this time to explain what building fire safety issues they should look for while on routine fire alarms and medical calls. Clarify what information you can use as a fire prevention professional.
2. Be diligent with sharing new information via email or face to face. This information can include buildings with fire protection systems down, routine system maintenance or any new systems being installed. Building renovations are also of importance to the line crews. This information will give the line crews an opportunity to take a look at these fire safety issues and update their prefire plans.
3. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Document any unusual hazards or buildings with a photo and share them in a safety meeting or via email. Create a power point presentation with these unique photos so any shift can view them on a rainy day. Remember you are out there every day. The average fire fighter may not have the opportunity to see these buildings. This is especially true for departments that do not have line personnel performing building inspections.
4. Create a file of photos and explanations on buildings with standpipes and fire pumps in your area. Large buildings without suppression systems are also worthy of documentation. This information is extremely important for the first arriving unit's size up and the IC overall strategy. As Frank Brannigan would say "the building is the fireman's enemy, Know your enemy."
5. The simple act of stopping by a station for a cup of coffee or eating lunch with a crew is a sure way to hear firsthand what dangers the line crews have recently encountered. Once again this is another opportunity for fire prevention to share valuable updated information.
6. Take new hires on a field trip. Does your department offer new hires the opportunity to spend a day or two in the fire prevention field? The fire service needs young inspectors that will dedicate their career to fire prevention. Your department may have a new hire that is suited better for prevention and may get a spark of interest during this type of orientation.
7. Maintain a photo file of new construction. This is one way new hires and veterans alike can see what type's of construction is being used for new buildings from the ground up. This is an excellent way to show line personnel the inherent void spaces in ordinary construction that are so dangerous to all fire fighters.
8. Be innovative with projects and presentations. Make sure your information is easy to understand and easy to find. An example of being innovative could be to send out an email of the "Building of the Month." This can include any target building or unique fire protection system. A brief description and picture will be a valuable additional to fire prevention training for line personnel. This will have a lasting effect and take only a minute of your time.
9. Ask other fire prevention professionals how they deliver vital information to their line personnel. All professionals love to share their information. Networking is a sure way to find an answer to a unique question. Be sure to hand out business cards at all seminar and conferences.
If you want to increase your value to your department and improve your department's fire prevention bureau participate in bipartisanship. Share what you know and work toward common ground.
Article Provided By:
Timothy M. Hoyt