Fire Fighters Association of Missouri

A Message From The 1st Vice President – September 2020

Welcome to fall, or perhaps early spring or late summer or maybe even winter! As crazy as this year has been I am not sure what to prepare for in the coming months and if things continue as they have been it will certainly change no matter what we plan for. We have seen some things change directly for the FFAM with no convention and a modified State Fair Fire Department. I am proud of the way our organization has adapted to the challenges as they have been presented. Hopefully, next year will see us return to our traditions and roots and we will find some normalcy in our activities.

In this edition let’s visit a bit about accountability. What does that mean anyway? One book definition is the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility. Another says accountability refers to an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. A very common application for the fire service accountability is keeping track of all resources and personnel at an incident scene, something we are generally pretty good at.

So if we are good at keeping track of our personnel and resources at our incidents do our agencies or we as individuals also excel at accountability in all other phases of our fire service related service? Are we quick to accept the responsibility for actions taken or for actions not taken? 

Are we willing to stand and give attention to the criticism we may receive from our peers or those we serve? Is it easier to sidestep the accountability aspect and find excuses that pass the responsibility on to others?

If you or your agency are not willing to make sure your actions are in line with service models, policy, guidelines, public need, societal change or even common sense then are we being accountable for our actions and accepting the responsibility associated with them? If you or your agency do not choose to take the proper responsibility to be accountable then it would appear the credibility once enjoyed will crumble and at some point end. You or your agency may face a difficult task of repairing your standing with those you serve or your fellow fire service family.

It has often been said by many supervisors that it is much easier to deal with an employee problem if that person simply accepts the responsibility for what took place, admits there was a problem that was not someone else’s fault and the issue can be dealt with. Does that mean that the offender escapes all discipline or repercussions, no that is not what it means, but many times the outcome can be greatly altered if the journey to get there is simplified. This is as true for an individual as it is for an agency. If your agency is involved in something that may not be the most positive ever experienced is it better to come clean, accept the responsibility and get past the situation or to try to pass the buck and deflect attention and drag the situation out forever continually opening the wound that may have been healing?

From a general practice, I will assure you the longer issues are left unaccounted for the more difficult the outcome will be. When your department or you are “drug through the mud” and “Monday morning quarterbacked” for weeks and months your reputation erodes more and more. At some point, the facts may no longer make an impact as the judgment has already been rendered in the public eye. If you have never had the opportunity to have the public upset with you or your agency consider yourself lucky and do everything you can to keep it that way.

When you reflect on current trends in our society it would appear that it is easy to judge an entire profession by the actions of a few. This has been the case likely throughout history if you take any time to study our world’s past. It only takes a few keystrokes or the uploading of a cell phone video and the whole world takes the opportunity to pass judgment, call for action, or directly confront you or your agency. When this happens it is human nature to “circle the wagons” and take a defensive stance. While this action is sometimes warranted wouldn’t it be a faster resolution at times to just step up and “own” the issue. If we own our issues it is fairly hard for others trying to sway public opinion to continue to beat you about the head and face with whatever took place. I am not saying that any agency or individual just has to roll over and play dead, but if something happened then it happened, step up and say so. Get the problem addressed and move on to provide the quality services all of our communities have come to expect.

Each of our agencies and each of us as individuals must accept the concept of accountability. If we as an industry do not hold each other accountable and accept the responsibility for what we do, then at some point there will be cries to no longer have this industry or at least not with our current business model or the dedicated personnel that currently make it function.

Do the right thing, be accountable!

As always, if I can be of assistance to your or your agency please contact me. Be Safe!