We’ve heard many a grumble that Firefighters aren’t what they used to be, and for personnel who have been with the Service a long time it can sometimes seem to be very different organisation from the one they joined.
So what are the biggest gripes? And how can you turn these to your advantage?
1. Lack of operational activity.
Who’d have thought not enough fires would be a bad thing? But for many FF, it can be difficult not to get many chances to put their skills and training into practice. The lack of fires is of course testament to the dedicated prevention agenda the FRS has been driving for many years, but that doesn’t make it any easier for FF who feel changes have left them side-lined.
‘Modern’ firefighters are very clear that community safety work is critical, and understand that operational skill is just one part of their role. People looking to join the Service do well to have experience of supporting the welfare, safety or interaction of the community through their spare time activities. Firefighters seeking promotion should make sure they consider the following in their assessments: how to gather information FROM the community about its needs; how to encourage crews to work sensitively and proactively with the community; and how to ensure community activities are delivering what they are supposed to.
2. Lack of discipline
Whether you feel that an authoritarian manner is the only effective approach, or feel that a raised voice isn’t automatically the best way of getting the message across, a big proportion of longer serving FF feel that newer recruits get an easier ride. It would seem that the Service has wised up to the fact that its crews are a valuable resource and that their input, ideas and contributions have a lot to add. Gone are the days of crews keeping quiet and doing as they are told. A growing focus on individual empowerment and involvement benefits the organisation and keeps FF feeling valued and included.
‘Modern’ firefighters recognise the value of firm discipline, and understand that there are times when obeying orders is not up for negotiation. They also know that leaders need to show respect for their teams and provide opportunities for them to contribute to decisions and take ownership over getting things done themselves.
3. Career progression.
There was a time when years served was proof enough of ability to manage others, and promotion would follow. But things have changed, and FF now have to prove that they have the potential to take charge of a team. There are plenty of benefits of this change, especially around bullying and fairness, but it hasn’t always been popular.
‘Modern’ firefighters recognise that they are responsible for their own career progression and are proactive about ‘up-skilling’ themselves to be suitable for selection or promotion. The alternative is to sit back and hope that you are going to fall into a new job, but as more and more people are taking charge of their own career future, it’s not a strategy that’s likely to turn out well!