From the Editor
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You’ll hear an awful lot of gibberish out there about your organization’s morale, culture, and leadership, but how much of it can you really
measure outside of hyperbole and hearsay? Every firefighter in your department will give you a different perspective, outside of banal groupthink around a kitchen
table, about what morale, culture, and leadership actually are; you could create entirely new heuristics around
these “metrics.” Although these are tough to measure,
they should be analyzed in a constructive manner to
determine your organization’s climate; popular opinion
is perspective—whether you like it or not. And like
Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist’s famous description
of pornography when this polarizing social topic hit
the courts, “I can’t describe it, but you know it when
you see it,” those who work in our fire departments
know what good and bad morale is, what good and bad
culture is, and who the good and bad leaders are.
As Chief Reginald Freeman discusses in this month’s
issue, climate becomes the precursor to culture. I agree,
as we tend to focus on culture’s undesirable and consequential outcomes rather than what led said culture
to form and persist. This month, we tackle some of the
variables that shape climate and, hence, culture. There
are many reasons climate can be inclement or sunny,
but unless continued attention is paid to the independent variables, any organization can end up flying too
close to the sun. Freeman’s article creates the foundation
for us. Find out how he is making leadership decisions
in a 153-year-old institution and how you can too.
Anthony Correia asks us to consider why we still have
our members administer and say the oath in our departments. We all take the “oath of office” when we show
up the first day by raising our right hands, knowing that
the fire academy staff owns us the second we drop our
hand back to our sides; however, we must make sure
that this oath has the value it had on day one for the
rest of our careers. Correia describes why it’s important
to have the entire organization become part of the
process of crafting its oath. When crafting this oath, any
department knows who it’s crafting it for: the citizenry.
Steve Marsar took this oath many years ago and has
not forgotten its virtues and ethos. How so? Just take a
look at his offering this month on doing the right thing
because it’s the right thing to do. He helps us understand
that we don’t just take an oath; we drive around in it all
day for all to see, so put it to good use!
Perhaps nothing rings louder than the truths and
consequences of accepted behavior when discussing an
organization’s climate. This becomes the key precursor to
culture, and as one of our trusted voices in the Penn Well
Fire Group, Andy Stumpf says, “What you allow in your
presence is your standard.” I’m not just referring to the
bad apples in our jobs—we know their act and how to
handle them, especially bullies—but how we manage
ourselves as individuals to develop climate and culture.
Candice McDonald takes on the bullies by showing
what they really look like—everyone. Bullying isn’t just
seeing who the onionskins are at the kitchen table but
those who exhibit (passive) aggressive behaviors of all
kinds and what they end up doing to our organizations.
Brandon Green asks if we’re treating our apparatus
and equipment better than ourselves as fit and capable
firefighters. There’s so much that goes into maintaining
apparatus and equipment that we schedule it and write
the checklists down. This is perhaps one of the seminal
questions of contemporary firefighting, because we have
solutions to maintaining both. If you can’t honestly
answer this question, read Green’s article, and take care
of your equipment and the people who operate it.
Regardless of your diet and fitness level (risk), the
public expects you to be ready and aggressive at taking
care of their emergencies. David Rhodes teaches us what
this really means and the different interpretations of this
banal term in the fire service.
It’s time to get aggressive with our health and operations in a safe manner, because we operate in a very complex and high-risk environment. Paul Shapiro describes a
very aggressive WUI tactic called “Anchor and Hold” to
defend urban homes threatened by wildfire moving from
house to house. This is a complex operation that requires
tremendous coordination to get the limited water we
have to the right place at the right time.
We have to understand the mental health and wellness consequences of our job, regardless of the climate
or culture we create and operate in. In Jacob Oreshan
III’s open letter on mental health to responders, he
says what to look for once we’ve returned to quarters
and start processing what we just went through. Don’t
ignore your duty to treat others with respect or your
overall health and wellness, as they’re all part of the
climate we all make—and the culture that it becomes.
Thank you all for another great year at FireRescue. On
behalf of the publisher, editors, and staff, we thank you
for your continued support. Have a great holiday season
and New Year!
Morale, culture, and leadership in the fire service