August/September 2002 Issue Number 38
a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues
to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers.
Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity,
change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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International August 23-26, 2002. Kansas City, MO.
Annual Women Chief Fire Officers Fire Service Leadership Conference
November 8-10, 2002 at Motorola University, Schaumburg, Illinois.
Call 630-990-2390 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
International Conference of Fire Service Women April 23-27, 2003.
Denver, CO. Contact email@example.com
for more information.
Firefighters Behaving Badly
New Jersey firefighters were suspended when they allegedly threw a
late-night party in the firehouse and let members of a punk band wear
their turnout gear and ride around town in the firetrucks with sirens
blaring. In Colorado, two firefighters were suspended when a crude
fire station game ("butt ball") was reported on the evening news.
In Vermont, a fire chief defended the consumption of alcohol in the
fire station, saying, "Of course we're doing it. There are a lot of
studies that show alcohol in moderation is good for you."
on earth is going on here??
the aftermath of the terrible losses of September 11th, firefighters
across the country were universally lauded as heroes. People suddenly
woke up to the sacrifice that firefighters are prepared to make every
day, and communities openly expressed their appreciation. In newspaper
columns, on television, in books and magazines; firefighters became
icons of something noble and pure about being human.
then there are stories like the ones mentioned above, all of which
occurred after September 11th. To say that such stories tarnish the
image of firefighters is a significant understatement. Noble public
servants turn into crass fraternity boys overnight in the public's
eye. The respect that is so hard earned, and at long last given, can
be lost overnight when one of these incidents comes to light.
course these incidents of bad behavior are isolated. It is not fair
that people may generalize about all firefighters from hearing one
case of inappropriate conduct, but it is also human nature that they
will. But these types of incidents are perhaps not completely aberrant.
The fact that one volunteer chief is willing to go public in favor
of drinking in the fire station says that many more support the practice
silently. The "butt ball" game occurred in a highly professional and
respected career department. Certainly the officers on that department
knew better than to allow such behavior under their watch. Yet still
it happened, with terrible results from a public relations perspective.
reason such bad behavior continues to occur may be the blurred line
for some firefighters between their work and their private lives.
"This is our home," firefighters say about the fire station, usually
as a way of justifying less-than-professional standards of conduct.
"We're off duty now," they say, although they are still in the firehouse,
just enjoying "down time."
true that the fire station is different from other workplaces. Firefighters
live and work together; they eat, sleep, watch television, and just
hang out together for much more extended periods than any other workers.
Firefighting is different, but it's not completely different. Professional
standards still apply, whether a person is fighting a fire or eating
popcorn with co-workers. Just because the station door is closed does
not mean that anything goes.
firefighters behave badly, it is always about breakdowns in leadership.
Officers who set professional, clear, and consistent standards of
conduct do not have the types of problems that eventually show up
on the evening news. You can still have fun, you can still form strong
bonds of camaraderie, you can still be a little crazy sometimes. As
long as you always remember; you're still at work
Vermont Times Argus, April 17, 2002
Post, April 13, 2002
Press, May 15, 2002.