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December 31, 2003
New Year’s Resolutions
Stephen M. Reid, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE

As 2004 approaches, we often think of our “New Year’s Resolutions.”  In the New Year we are going to do this or we aren’t going to do that.  And the bottom line is that after the first week or so of the New Year, how much thought is given to any of our “resolutions?”  Resolutions, as I see it, are a way to bring about a change or a new beginning.  But, at the end of the year, it’s the same old story line; firefighters continue to die in the line of duty.  This year, 2003, is no different as 108 brave and honorable firefighters have given their lives and will not be returning home today.  So, with that, I offer the following 10 simple items from my list of New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Exercise

Visit your doctor and set up a program that will get you back in shape.  Remember that you didn’t get in that condition overnight and that it will take you quite a while to get out of that condition.  Heart attacks are the leading killer of firefighters with 46.8% of the line of duty deaths being attributed to heart attacks.

2.   Safety

Standard Operating Procedures, Incident Command System, Accountability, etc. are all products of past behaviors, bad behaviors that needed to be corrected.  And for good reason.  We continue to lose firefighters needlessly.  Become a team player and play by the rules.  They are there for a good reason.  Wear your seat belt and remember, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk!”

3.   Think

Be an active thinker and think outside of the box.  Get out of the old mentality of “we’ve always done it that way.”  Just because our forefathers did it that way does not mean that there can’t be an easier and safer way of doing business.  Look around and see what other communities are doing.

4.   Mentor

Become a mentor, especially the veteran firefighters.  Don’t let your years of experience go down the drain.  Share those experiences with the “rookie.”  Get out of the mentality of “I won’t be smarter if they know what I know.”  Why should they have to go through the learning pains that you did to gain that experience.

5.   Education

The fire service is constantly evolving.  Get and stay current on the issues by taking classes at the National Fire Academy or your local community college.  Most states have a tuition reimbursement program or veterans can utilize their veteran benefits.  Either way, costs to you will be minimal if not free.  An additional benefit will be increasing your networking capabilities.  Don’t reinvent the wheel; call somebody that you met in class who has already done what you want to implement and also worked out the bugs.  However, you may have to “tweak” it some to meet your needs.

6.   Politics

Get involved, not by running for office, but by working with your elected officials, civic groups, etc.  The more they know about “their” department, the better off you will be.  It will make things easier when it comes to the budget and they are looking for ways to down-size.  If they know your needs and desires, there may be a greater chance that the cuts will come elsewhere.

7.   Grants

Have you submitted your grant through the USFA Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP)?  If not, then why not?  There is no reason not to.  Monies are available on a matching basis for Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety, Fire Prevention, Firefighting Vehicles, and EMS.  So far, in fiscal year 2003, 7,284 grants have been awarded for a total of $563,778,518 with more to come.

8.   Fix It Now

While performing your daily apparatus check or cleaning up after an incident, fix the broken tool or appliance now.  Don’t wait for the next shift or spring clean-up.  Who knows when you’ll need it?  It may be that next run and when you don’t have it, what are you going to do?  Fix it now!

9.   Will

More than 80% of the firefighters who die in the line of duty do not have a will.  Don’t delay and start the process today.  Many departments have a legal plan where you can get one for a reduced price or even free.  If that doesn’t work for you, there is software available and you can write your own.  Either way, take care of your loved ones and get it done!

10.   Responsibility

You want the glory of being in charge, then take responsibility for your actions.  Nobody put a gun to your head and made you put on the “white helmet.”  Make sure the little things get taken care of; wearing a seat belt, following the SOP’s, operating within your incident command system, training, safety…  The list goes on and on.  Somebody has to be the enforcer and if they don’t want to play by the rules, then they should and more than likely will find another job!

These are a few items to be considered as you prepare your New Year’s Resolutions.  Consider where you are and where you would like to be.  Reflect on your actions as a firefighter, line officer, or chief officer.  Think about what can I do so that I will be a better person, a better leader.  Make sure that what you do will help ensure that everybody goes home in the same if not better condition then when they came to the station.

About The Author

Stephen M. Reid, a 36-year veteran of the fire service, recently retired as a Deputy Fire Chief with the District of Columbia Fire/EMS Department, Washington, D.C.  Currently, he is President of his own company, Stephen M. Reid and Associates, Inc., specializing in Emergency Services Management Consulting.  He holds a Ph.D. in Fire Service Administration, a Masters of Administrative Science in Management and a Bachelor of Science in Fire Administration.  He is the recipient of the prestigious Chief Fire Officers Designation from  the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation, who is affiliated with the International Association of Fire Chiefs.  He is a member of various fire service organizations including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Protection Association, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, Institution of Fire Engineers, Maryland Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council.  Additionally, he serves as an Instructor for Command School, Inc.  For more information, you may contact the author by visiting