Blog by Nicolas Thomas
Division Chief for Benicia Fire Department, Calif.

The fire service is undergoing significant changes. Local governments are using rolling brown outs to save money. Fire stations and fire companies are being defunded and permanently closed. Communities are revisiting auto-aid /mutual-aid agreements with their neighboring communities. Company staffing strength is being reduced. Training budgets and fire prevention budgets are being slashed. A day doesn’t go by without an article in the local paper calling for fire department right sizing.

Unfortunately, most of this is beyond our control. But what is in our control is whether or not us firefighters focus on what matters: our profession.

If your fire station is anything like mine, you have access to a library containing in-house developed policies, procedures, and training plans. Your library probably includes commercially available publications such as the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, IFSTA manuals, and other books focused on topics like ladder truck operations, engine operations, fire investigations, rescue operations, etc. If you stacked all the materials in your library you’d probably have a stack 4 feet high.

If your fire station is anything like mine, you have access to the Internet. Personally, I’m yet to fail in locating something I’m searching on the Internet. I especially like perusing the NFA, FEMA, CDC and TargetSolutions web pages. Give them a look.

If your fire station is anything like mine, you have access to senior personnel. Colleagues who have seen and done it all in this business. It says here story telling is still effective for passing along knowledge. And trust me; senior colleagues will share stories if you ask.

There are dozens of ways you and your crew can use your library, Internet and senior personnel to improve your knowledge, skills and abilities. I’ll leave it to you on how to utilize available resources. All I ask is that you stop wasting time on things like shift wars, food in the pantry, or washing and fueling the rig.

We need to bring our A game every single day. Let’s focus! Let’s bring it!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on TargetSolutions Command Post website in February, 2011.

About the Author
Nicolas Thomas is a Division Chief for the City of Benicia Fire Department. He has more than 30 years of fire service experience, including 20 years as an officer. He has a BS in Fire Administration and has completed extensive leadership training through the National Fire Academy and through the California State Fire Marshal Office.