Chief Concerns: Live THE PROMISE in your community
BY MARC S. BASHOOR ON JUL 31, 2015
Your community probably expects a lot from you. Frankly, your community deserves a lot from you. Public safety officials must always remember that there is a valid expectation of public trust. The Fire and EMS departments are no different than police departments. You see people during their most desperate and vulnerable of times. They call you to take care of them, usually when they can't take care of themselves.
How do we ensure that the people we hire, or vote to accept into membership, will live up to the standards and expectations of being a public safety professional? You do backgrounds checks, right? (At least you should be doing them!) Everyone who applies to your organization wouldn't apply if they weren't fine upstanding folks, right? Don't kid yourself! We generally get good people through our doors, but our job is to make sure they become great people. Of course, we're all human; no one is a perfect little angel without any baggage. Regardless, we still have a solemn responsibility to build and maintain that public trust. This is easier said than done when you're struggling just to get fire trucks and ambulances out the door. I get it-and you need to get it, too.
I don't claim to have all the answers-never have, likely never will; however, my upbringing as a preacher's kid (a preacher who was also a World War II veteran) is the basis for who I am today and how I conduct myself.
Building and maintaining trust
First, let's start with agreeing that the public generally trusts the fire and EMS departments in their respective communities. We should also agree that it is incumbent upon each of us to build and maintainthat trust.
To build that trust, your department needs to do all the right things for the right reasons. I'll focus on values that will help you build the trust and intuitively instill confidence and camaraderie in your force. Value statements take different forms-paragraphs, bulleted sentences, catchy phrases, etc. In the finest traditions of the fire service, I'll use a catchy acronym: THE PROMISE. The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department (PGFD) adopted THE PROMISE as our value statement in 2011.
Let's start with "THE": Trust, Honor and Ethics. These are the core values, above all others, that are necessary to ensure that you can build and maintain the public's trust. Let's look closer at the definitions of these three values, courtesy of Merriam-Webster.
Trust: the "belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc." Need I say more? The belief that you and your people are reliable, good, honest and effective. It's important to recognize that one "ah crap" moment can erase 10 years of "atta-a-boys," and one bad apple amongst the troops can ruin an image. It is incumbent upon the leaders of an organization to minimize those instances and either convert those folks or weed them out.
Honor: "faithfulness to high moral standards." This is not only about honoring a solemn oath, but also about honoring those who came before us. We should come prepared every time, every day to honor our responsibilities, our mission, ourselves and our performance.
Ethics: "the code of good conduct for an individual or group." Defining ethics is sometimes about defining a nebulous, which I identify as that area between what's seen as clearly right or clearly wrong. A look at Merriam-Webster also gives some focus by providing synonyms, including "morality, morals, norms, principles, standards" as well as related words, including "customs, dictates, etiquette, manners, mores, values; beliefs, dogma, faith, tenets."
Capturing the essence and urgency of trust, honor and ethics will be critical to maintaining your public's trust. Instilling the words is important, but practicing the values and beliefs both on and off-duty is critical to both your success and that of your company.
Let's now turn to the second half of the acronym, PROMISE:
- Energetically enthusiastic
Professionalism: Professionalism is not a paycheck, a patch or a T-shirt. Professionalism is a way of presentation and a way of doing business, paid or volunteer.
Responsiveness: This speaks to our ability to answer the call, whatever it may be. This isn't just the emergencies, it's also the service calls, community risk-reduction activities (smoke alarms, slip/trip/fall avoidance, etc.) and, yes, stopping to help grandma change a tire on the side of the road. Be responsive to the calls and the needs of your constituency.
Outreaching: It is incumbent upon you to spread the word to your community about fire prevention, fire safety, and health and wellness. Don't sit around waiting for them to come to you; go to their doors, their community meetings, wherever is necessary.
Mentorship: This means showing others "the way"-and not just to members of your company or department but also to your community. It might be those young kids playing basketball on the corner or the ones hanging out perhaps one or two decisions away from trouble. Regardless, take a few minutes to bring someone else "up."
Inspiration: Your words and your actions should inspire others to do the right thing-to do great things.