Managing Your Operational Capital

Every municipality has some type of human resource department. Some enjoy their visits to this place and others would rather drive into a tree on the way there, but there’s always a purpose for these visits: managing human capital in an organization. And most fire departments employ some type of administrative position in the organization that manages this capital, be it an executive-level chief officer or civilian. The fire chief, however, has to manage all of the fire department’s operational capital. Although our human resources are the most important, in the fire department, our apparatus, equipment, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) should also be considered important as they support our human capital-both firefighters and the civilians we are sworn to protect. Let’s refer to all of the above as our “operational capital.”

This month in FireRescue, we show you what we mean by this capital: how other countries manage tough human resource decisions, why we can’t afford not to buy certain safety systems for our people, how to take care of the health and wellness of our human resources, how not to take care of morale when it’s down for the count in the organization, what to expect in future apparatus design, and how those of us in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) environment need to know how to incorporate Mayday and retreat strategies to protect the most important capital-our people. So how did we manage to pack it all in this month? Let me show you.

We’ll start across the pond this month with our brothers and sisters in Poland and Russia. Poland and Russia have taken a nationalized approach to fire service reforms by looking at ways to invest in new gear, firehouses, and salaries for their firefighters. Years of underinvestment have led to investment from the European Union in Poland and nationally in Russia to streamline the modernization and success of their fire departments. Although tough decisions had to be made to shift financial resources to where they were needed most (to their people), we’re anxious to see how they emerge after their respective overhauls. But we also need to ensure we shift the right financial resources to our own people here in the United States, too.

Like the management of an incident scene, intentional, purposeful action that begins with conducting a scene size-up, establishing goals, and implementing small consistent changes will see dramatic results. The Milwaukee Fire Department’s Jordan Ponder makes a great correlation between managing incidents and the health of our human capital. Human capital is our obvious principal focus, but when everything we are able to do won’t work, it may be time to get out of the way of the problem.

Jennifer DeShon brings us a compelling story of a WUI fire that challenges the notion of committing human capital when it’s actually time to go. Read her amazing story and you’ll get a tremendous perspective of how much we’re actually in harm’s way and how much worse it can get.

David Rhodes brings us a very telling Hump Day S.O.S. that asks us to really think about the control measures we attempt to incorporate when we try to solve morale issues. Sometimes, we fail to see that our efforts to fix the problem may not just be masking the problem-they may be painting over it.

Don’t let good intentions become misguided. Rather, these intentions will come to fruition naturally if we take care of the root problems first. We also tend to let good intentions fail us when we spend our financial capital on apparatus. Each community has its own needs, and manufacturers have stepped up to provide us with myriad solutions to our apparatus needs. So where do we even begin to see what’s out there that we may need? How about the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) International?

Bob Vaccaro takes us back to the floor of FDIC International 2016 to introduce us to what’s new in apparatus design, innovation, and performance. Come read what he found and what you’ll find for your own organization that will not only transport your human capital to an emergency but help support it to ensure that our civilian capital gets its money’s worth from its fire department’s “operational capital.”

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