September 2017 Issue Number 206
Is 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.
We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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The IAFF Human Relations Conference will be held January 28-31, 2018 in Orlando, FL.
Now available! On
the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda
F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women
firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available
from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.
Leading by Example
The chief of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, recently gave an interview where she stated that she has been receiving mental health counseling following the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed at least 80 people. "It’s really important; it’s something that people need to talk about and work through to try to stop them having problems in the future."
Firefighters experience bad things in the course of their time on the job. It's the nature of the work to show up on the worst day of someone's life. Most of the time, they can deal with these experiences all right on their own, or by debriefing with their coworkers. Most of the time, even the bad calls don't linger long enough to cause lasting harm.
But then there are the really bad calls. Sometimes these are mass casualty events, like the Grenfell Tower fire. Other times they may be calls that have significant impact on a particular firefighter, such as running on a dead child the same age and sex as your own.
Emergency calls have lasting psychological effect for a couple different reasons. First, there is just seeing things that no person should ever see, and seeing such things on a regular basis.
But more than that is the sense of responsibility that goes with emergency response. As Chief Cotton said, "One of the things I felt on the night was the overwhelming sense of responsibility because I was in charge and it was my firefighters at risk in the building." There was tremendous risk allowing firefighters to enter the building to search for survivors. There were limits on what was reasonable under the circumstances. And Chief Cotton had to make that call.
Sometimes firefighters need help in dealing with experiences on the job. Fortunately, the fire service is recognizing that providing this type of help is a necessary service rather than a sign of weakness. And Chief Cotton's willingness to go public in seeking help is the best kind of leadership by example. Once mental health is recognized as being as important as physical health, the fire service will be a better place for its members and those they serve.
Source: The Guardian, August 21, 2017