Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Putting generic Strategic Priorities to work

One of the things I do with my all-too-rare spare time is that I read. My favorite genre is science fiction and sci-fi fantasy, because it often fuels my imagination. A lot of yesterday's science fiction ends up being tomorrow's science fact, too.

I recently finished a book regarding an unusual twist on a fairly standard plot - an uneasy intergalactic peace brokered by an advanced non-human society after two different human societies attempted mutual genocide.

The author could have been writing Strategic Priorities for fire and rescue. Her take on how to keep oriented to the proper Strategic Priorities, no matter what the situation involved four simple concepts and keeping them in sequence. The priorities...Life, Mission, Security, Operations. Fire and rescue services would be well-served to remember those same four priorities during both emergency situations and during our everyday routine.

Life - If we lose our lives, we can't accomplish the mission or any of our other priorities. At the scene, we need to focus on the most important things - discovering the things that can kill us and avoiding them. Those things can be buildings, forces of nature, evil people, or or our own egos. Or...it can be more insidious...smoking, lack of fitness, heat stress, cumulative stress, or a driver that's just a little sloppy with the accelerator.

Mission - If we don't accomplish the mission, we're wasting our time being there in the first place, plus our training time, plus our pre-planning time, plus our vehicle maintainence, plus the public's trust...

Security - If we don't secure our apparatus, our stations, and the rest of the public property with which we've been entrusted, then we may not be able to take care of our first two priorities. If we're missing tools, or if our station is wide open for anyone to steal from it or trash it while we're gone, then we might be missing the one tool that will save our lives or just the public's trust that we're going to be responsible with the expensive stations and equipment with which we're entrusted.

Operations - We have to keep on operating, no matter what challenges occur. Budget cuts, brownouts, station closures...the department keeps on operating. High call volume and unusual calls, check. Major terrorist attack, check. Long, boring shifts with few or no calls, check. A firefighter-arsonist that shames us all...the rest of us still keep on pulling on the gear and rolling out the doors.

If in doubt about what the priorties are, make sure that you and your crew can stay alive...the other priorities are important, but you can live without them. After all, imaginary intergalactic heros do it all the time, and they have it made compared to us. After all, their problems are imaginary.

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