The Most Important Thing
There's a lot at stake in the business of fire fighting and EMS. A lot goes into running an organization in this sector. Maintenance of apparatus, tons of equipment from radios to SCBA, and so on.
There is absolutely nothing more important than the people who wear the gear. Fire departments can't just wing it when it comes to taking care of their own and their.
The best, most capable apparatus is only as good as the crew operating it. Think how much we invest into a new apparatus. The spec committee, the bells and whistles, the height of the hose beds, etc. Then the price, which has increased by about 30% in the past three years. We don't even get deered, we say things like "well it is what it is, we need a new ladder truck."
How often does your department do the same amount of work for the employees working there? Is there an employee committee? Are there specific employee resources groups or employee interests groups to help bring together employees with common interests? Is there a way for employees to provide feedback about their employment?
As much as it costs to outfit and train a new firefighter, I'm always perplexed at how easily we let them walk away from the fire department. I don't mean charging them for their recruit training (indictive of a trust issue) but actually caring for and investing in them beyond the recruit academy. Beyond onboarding. Beyond probation.
Think about all the NFPA standards (over 300) and how many are there for firefighter equipment and so on. Do we all follow all of them? Not necessarily but we might strive too at least. We inspect gear, we test SCBA cylinders, we make sure we can do the skills in NFPA 1001, and so on. But how often are we checking on the treatment, management, and mentorship of our individual personnel?
If we want to retain talent in today's market, we have to get back to focusing on what makes the department in the first place. It's people. Without people nothing else matters.