Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Chief's Philosophy--From the Archives

It's November again and election time in many fire departments.  Invariably, some first time chief's will take office come January.  If these thoughts help even one of those folks, I've been successful. There are rules, and then there are rules. Here are some I've tried, not always successfully, to follow.

Ryman’s Rules: A Volunteer Chief’s Philosophy

1. You are responsible. You are responsible 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. If you are there or 3,000 miles away. You are responsible. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.

2. The chief is always right. Invite input, debate, etc. from the officers. However, once the decision is made, that’s it. In public, the officers must show solidarity.

3. The officers are always right. If an officer makes a decision you disagree with, in public or with the other firefighters, that decision was right. You talk about what you would have done differently in private.

4. Delegate, delegate, and delegate. You can’t be involved in every activity, nor should you be. Give the junior officers responsibilities and hold them accountable. If they follow through, give them more and more. If they don’t, let them know about it and don’t give them any additional work.

5. Try to develop a command presence. Your presence at an emergency should send a message to the firefighters that everything is going to be okay. Regardless of how badly something is going, try to maintain a calm exterior. Motivate your people. This is done differently for each individual. If you give an order or tell them to get into a building, they should totally believe that you believe they can do it. Never tell a firefighter to do something you wouldn’t or couldn’t do yourself. Chiefs give orders on incomplete information regularly. Even if you have doubts about it, give the order as if you are 100% confident about it. Your confidence is a force multiplier.

6. Let them have fun. Nobody is getting paid for this. The younger guys have to enjoy themselves. At the same time, know when to pull in the reins, and when you do, jerk them hard. They still have to be professionals. You can’t be their buddy anymore. You are the man, and they have to recognize it as such.

7. Pace of change. Keep them sullen but not mutinous. The pace of change has to be fast enough that the young guys see progress, but not so fast that the dinosaurs get riled up. As long as both groups are slightly unhappy, you’re doing fine.

8. Don’t be afraid to piss somebody off. If you’re not pissing somebody off once in a while, you’re not doing your job.

9. Encourage training certifications. Push the guys to get their Firefighter 1 and other certificates. The time is fast coming when what you are able to do, and what positions you can hold in a fire department virtually anywhere will be determined by these certificates. At the same time, work to keep things in perspective. Firefighter 1 or 2 does not equal “super firefighter”.

10. Develop junior officers. The greatest legacy a chief can have is by the officers he leaves behind.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Top Ten

Lists of the top ten this or that have been the rage for years, and fodder for great fun and debate.   I decided to add to the noise with a selection of my Top Ten Fire Service reads.  This is totally subjective and personal, and is my list today.  It could change tomorrow.  Everyone out there can and probably would come up with a different list.   

My list is hopelessly prejudiced because of two selections I would automatically make.  The books below are not in any particular order. 

·         Report From Engine Company 82—Dennis Smith

·         Fireground Tactics—Emanuel Fried

·         Firefight:  Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11—Patrick Creed and Rick Newman

·         D.C. Fire—Dennis Rubin

·         Last Men Out:  Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse—Tom Downey

·         Population 485-Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time—Michael Perry

·         Thirty Years on the Line—Leo Stapleton

·         B-Shifter:  A Firefighter’s Memoir—Nick Brunacini 

·         Mayday! Firefighter Down—Gary Ryman

·         Fire Men:  Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family—Gary Ryman

This is an eclectic list and includes some works that many may have never heard of, much less read.  Some haven’t been in print for a while (but may be available on the used market).  Only one is a true “tactics and strategy” book—introduced to me by my Dad over 30 years ago.  It was good then and is still relevant now.  There’s not a book on this list I haven’t read multiple times.   

I hope to see other lists and hopefully at least one of mine will make it! 
Here are some links to a few of the above. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Speaking at Grey Towers

What a great time speaking last evening at Grey Towers on Gifford Pinchot's two terms as Governor. The Heritage Association there put on an incredible reception afterwards. Couldn't ask for a better turnout and evening.

Getting ready to speak

The Reception

The Finger Bowl

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Editing Continues.....

The revisions and edits on the second draft of Fire In His Bones (the working title) are done. Now onto further polishing and improvements and the hunt for dreaded typos in the third! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Writing Update

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.  To the contrary, in the last few months I’ve completed the first draft of Fire In His Bones, which is the working title for the sequel to Mayday! Firefighter Down.  Editing and a second draft is well underway on this manuscript and I’m jotting down ideas for the third and final book in the series.  In Fire In His Bones, Dave Michaels fans can follow him with his promotion to Captain and assignment as the company commander of the elite Squad 1.  It will be an exciting ride…

At the same time, I’ve finished the first draft of another novel on a non-fire topic, which allowed me to creatively stretch a bit.  This book, entitled The Education of Stuart McGrath, is political satire set in the satirical gold mine which is Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Stuart is a young grad school political junkie who by the force of sheer competence, an unusual commodity in Scranton electoral politics, and a cheap salary, rises to the illustrious if deceiving position of Chief of Staff to the mayor.  This manuscript is fermenting in the bottom drawer of my desk for another few weeks before I begin the revision process, but I’m excited to take a fresh pass at what I hope will be a fun book. 
Time to fire up the coffee and get back to work….