As I worked on my expectations I kept coming back to tradition, in particular how much of a role tradition should have.
The Osage Beach Fire Protection District is preparing to make a step into the future by promoting three Captains to a Deputy Chief position on shift. As we prepare for these new positions the Assistant Chief and I are creating our expectations of these newly promoted staff, expectations that will serve as a road map for these individuals.
As I worked on my expectations I kept coming back to tradition, in particular how much of a role tradition should have. When we look at operations of a fire department tradition can quickly turn into “we have always done it this way”, an excuse veiled as tradition while ignoring newer, more effective, and in most cases a safer ways to operate.
As someone who has been in this “gig” for 30 years now, I can sit back and see the cycle repeat itself over and over. The new hires come on who are more in tune to change and new ideas thus creating conflict with the old timers. Inevitably the old timers complain about the “new generation” and the “new generation” sees the old timers as archaic and behind the times. There are actually classes offered to teach officers how to relate to the different generations.
There is a phrase that has been around since I was new to the fire service, and it has to come with an apology to a neighboring chief as he despises this saying: “200 years of tradition will not be impeded by progress”. Apology aside there is a lot of truth to this and we need to recognize its importance. We need to find that balance that allows us to more efficiently provide services while not only recognizing but preserving those closely held traditions that are the Fire Service.
This tension between what we are comfortable with and development reminds me of my late father. Technology passed his generation by and the usage of computers and cell phones had little place in his life. For 82 years dad managed to develop relationships, stay in touch, and work in a career that used none of these modern devices. These gadgets, to him, were simply an intrusion to what he was comfortable with and had very little place in his life.
Several weeks ago at the services for former member Jim Smith, the balance suddenly seemed a little clearer. Career firefighters in a modern day truck paid honor to Jim with the Ringing of the Bell and the playing of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. Jim was with the department when we were all volunteers not career, they operated out of used trucks not modern apparatus, YET a firefighter’s funeral then would have still included the ringing of the bell and Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. A perfect example of balance found. So in my expectations to these newly promoted Deputy Chiefs they will see the following: I expect you to Respect the Tradition while working for Change. Maybe a tight-line we should all learn to walk.
-Osage Beach Fire Chief Jeff Dorhauer