Welcome to the New Year! I hope everyone had an opportunity to relax a bit during the holidays, and hopefully, you had time you could share with family and friends.
In this edition, I would like to visit with you about change. We all know the basic meaning of change, and we won’t get into that, but we do need to think about how we go about making changes, how we deal with changes, and where changes take us. Without a doubt, the year 2020 tossed more than one change upon each of us on a personnel and agency level. Responses were often modified, gatherings, training, meetings, conventions, family events, and many other things changed over the past several months. For the most part, our industry met the challenges of those changes and took steps to continue providing top quality service to those needing our assistance.
How did you deal with changes that came along with the 2020 pandemic? Did you curl up in a ball and try to will them away, or did you step up and help find solutions without a lot of outward complaining and foot-stomping? I hope you were one of the people who stepped up to make things as good as you could and helped find a better way to provide service to those in need.
One of the changes that our industry faced is the delivery of training and attendance at meetings. Many of these items have moved to a virtual platform, and some may never return to the in-person delivery method we once relied solely upon. Many did not embrace the change in the way we received training or interacted with others. However, we still adapted and overcame the obstacle to continue our improvement. The change presented itself, and we adjusted as we needed.
If you look at our industry from a historical perspective, we faced many changes and dealt with them in many ways. You younger folks may be surprised to learn that EMS has not always been a part of the fire service. Over time and for various reasons, EMS migrated into the fire service and created significant changes to service models, budgets, and staffing and equipment needs.
Agencies across the nation all responded to this change in ways that met their particular area’s need, but those that took on EMS certainly faced change. Hazardous material issues were another change the industry went through. Once we figured out that ethyl-methyl-bad stuff was around more than we knew, our industry realized things needed to change.
Training and awareness moved to the forefront, and many areas developed specialized units to deal with this change in our services.
Not to start a debate, but something more recent has been the resurgence of smooth bore nozzles.
Again, it may surprise some of the younger members, but smooth bore nozzles were around way back when this industry started. Over time they were supplemented with adjustable type nozzles that gave agencies a way to get “more bang for their buck” when making purchases as you didn’t have to have a separate device for each need. Budgets were part of the change, and the answer was to not buy multiple devices, and a large portion of the industry adapted and used the new technology.
Now continued study and review show the benefits of each type of nozzle, and many agencies have come full circle and are back to the “old” way.
I bring this topic up as an example of the fact that just because change may be needed or old ways end up changing, it does not mean that what was done in the past was actually “wrong.” It sometimes just becomes necessary to make changes to improve what we do as an industry. In the same light, not all changes end up in the positive category. I know each of you has likely experienced something that has changed, and it was not a change for the better. When these types of things happen, it is imperative that we as individuals, agencies, and industry work together to make another, sometimes difficult, decision that the change was not beneficial and work towards embracing yet another change.
If you continue to look a little at history and compare what was often common practice in building construction to what exists today, you will find a shining example of change. Not only did the building practices change, but the building materials have changed. Did the fire service embrace the change and figure out new ways of doing our jobs to conserve property and more importantly, work towards everyone going home safe? The answer is yes, we did! We don’t always approach how we conduct our fire scene activities today in the same fashion as we did forty or fifty years ago. We identified the need for change to deal with the changes thrown at us and took steps to improve our performance.
I believe if you take a look around you on a personal level, fire service career level, agency level, and society level, you will be able to identify times when a change came about that you did not embrace. If you are like some, you fell behind and were no longer as effective as you may have been in the past. If you embraced changes and succeeded with every one of them, then you are likely one of a kind as we all face some failures as we work through some change. The important part is to deal with the change.
Any way you look at the concept of change, if you do not recognize that it is all around you at each level of your existence and take steps to deal with it, you will likely find yourself dissatisfied on many levels and will not be the asset you generally are. With this in mind, stay aware of what is going on, take steps to succeed, and keep providing service to your citizens and agencies at the highest level possible.
As always, if I can be of assistance, please never hesitate to contact me. Be Safe!