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Managing change is always a challenging task, and it can be even more difficult in such areas as fire service due to its adherence to traditional norms of performance. It is observed that professional customs have deep roots in the fire service operation, and they are manifested in each duty a firefighter aims to accomplish on an everyday basis (Mills, 2006).
The traditional perceptions substantially influence the professional identity but, at the same time, the strict adherence to obsolete traditions, beliefs, and techniques may interfere with effective organizational transition to change, development of the ability to cope with the modern professional, ethical, and legal risks and problems, and adaptation to dynamically changing environment. Therefore, it is essential for fire service organizations to find an appropriate balance between professional traditions and the implementation of changes.
Need for Continued Research
Leadership can be defined as a strategic approach towards coping with current and future challenges and an essential element of organizational efficiency and leadership strategies; thus should focus on the detailed analysis of the contextual circumstances and interpretation of information about the changes emerging in the environment. The constant research of risks and trends the attainment of knowledge needed to bridge the gap between the present situation and the desired organizational goals.
The political and legal environment is constantly changing; technological advances emerge and require fire service organizations to adjust to changes. Moreover, Chief Fire Officers (CFOs) need to take into account ethical aspects of professional behavior, civil liability, and safety concerns as the consideration of stakeholder interests and responses of the public to the recent legal issues involving fire service personnel may prompt the right directions for the organizational improvement. Based on this, the continuous investigation of different environmental changes, social attitudes, and perceptions supports the efficient transition to change and the adoption of new relevant policies and norms.
Communication in Electronic Environment
In the context of the rapid computerization of professional and social performance, management, and supervision activities can be mediated through the use of information technologies. Different web-based communication tools, such as information bulletin boards, email services, and social media networks, significantly facilitate the dissemination of important information among employees and, in this way, support teamwork enhancement (International Association of Fire Chiefs & National Fire Protection Association, 2012). To achieve greater results in learning the etiquette and norms of professional communication, CFOs need to acquire knowledge about communication in both digital and real-world contexts.
The consideration of etiquette, internet policies, and regulation of access to web content and information sharing while on duty is vital to communication safety and quality. CFOs should be aware of the ethical principle of web-based communication and should enforce compliance with ethical and legal aspects of confidentiality, protection of individual and community interests, and avoidance of discrimination.
To illustrate the importance of ethical professional behavior in the use of web-resources as the means of communication with the public, it is possible to draw an example of the case that took place in Howard County, Maryland in 2013 when the Battalion Chief posted the politically and racially intolerant message on his personal Facebook page while being on duty (Metcalf, 2013). The post came to the attention of the fire department’s officials and ultimately resulted in the employee’s dismissal.
Although the initial intent behind the message might have been of a jesting character, the case demonstrates that a CFO should always recognize his/her social responsibility and understand that he/she is regarded as an agent of organizational communication with the public. Therefore, the compliance with ethical and legal principles of professional conduct and especially communication is an important element of professional competence.
CFO’s Role in Code Enforcement and Public Education
“Code enforcement is the process of ensuring compliance with all codes, ordinances, laws, and other regulations” (Coffman, 2013, par. 2). A CFO’s activities aimed to ensure individuals’ compliance with fire codes are essential aspects of public education. Code enforcement activities imply inspections or public meetings and lectures on fire-safety measures.
Such activities require CFOs to be engaged in the process of social networking and collaboration with different non-profit and for-profit organizations that may help to sponsor and arrange fire prevention and public education programs. To employ code enforcement initiatives, CFOs should be aware of their responsibilities and should have a sufficient level of knowledge and competence to perform a particular education or enforcement practice. CFOs’ duties in code enforcement indicate that personnel training is essential to the success of public education and citizens’ compliances with multiple safety principles.
Training and its Role in Maintenance of Proficiency
Efficient education programs help to accomplish simple routine and complex tasks and support the development of planning skills, critical thinking, and psychological sensitivity that allow CFOs to balance between staff members’ safety and efficiency. Education in fire service is an ongoing process, and it implies theoretical knowledge building and refinement of practical skills in dealing with emergency situations. CFO’s need to be engaged in the constant process of investigation and development of leadership qualities to achieve professional efficiency, ensure the integration of safety initiatives into organizational culture, demonstrate the compliance with high-standards of professional conduct in the fulfillment of diverse tasks and motivate personnel.
Human Resource Plans: Objectives and Goals
Efficient human resources (HR) management implies administration of work performance, encouragement of productivity, and evaluation of working outcomes. Based on this, the major short-term objectives in HR management should include the internal and external analysis, as well as the development of education programs aimed to increase and maintain personnel competence. The long-term goals are the improvement of the overall department’s performance, reduction of adverse incidents, and development of a sound organizational culture that fosters employees’ compliance with safety initiatives, codes of professional and ethical conduct, as well as stimulates fire codes enforcement in the public.
In the modern circumstances, fire service departments face multiple issues of technology integration, efficient personnel management, civil liability, staff training and education, legal and ethical aspects of professional behavior. The current problems provoked by both organizational initiatives or external environmental changes largely affect employees and the overall fire service performance.
Based on this, it is important to embrace change and enforce the compliance with change management activities, such as continuous research of potential risks and future trends, knowledge management practices, personnel and public education, at the organizational level. And it is possible to say that CFOs play a key role in the implementation of change management strategies and achievement of short-term and long-term objectives in the different aspects of organizational performance.
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Life Safety Initiatives
The applicable life safety initiatives are 1. Cultural Change, 5. Training & Certification, 8. Technology, and 14. Public Education. The article covers the issues of firefighters’ education and training and technology use which are important for departments’ following the safety initiatives. At the same time, it is possible to say that the embrace of change and the improvement of individual performance depends on values and beliefs integrated into the organizational culture.
Moreover, the overall success of personnel training and efficient technology use depends on the leaders’ ability to create the culture that would support the enforcement of legal and ethical codes and would encourage sound professional behavior in employees. Finally, competent and well-trained CFOs and firefighters can achieve better outcomes in public education, safety codes’ enforcement among people, and promotion of the recognition of personal responsibility in fire prevention.
Coffman, B. (2013). Code enforcement: Critical for a successful fire prevention program. Fire Engineering. Web.
International Association of Fire Chiefs, & National Fire Protection Association. (2012). Chief Officer: Principles and practice. Ontario, Canada: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Metcalf, A. (2013). County Fire Battalion Chief fights dismissal over Facebook posts. Ellicott City Patch. Web.
Mills, S. (2006). Managing change. Fire Engineering. Web.