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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

4 ways to reinforce public trust in firefighters

Acting U.S. Fire Administrator Chief Glenn Gaines' speech at FRI should serve as a reminder of the role we play in the community

By Chief Adam K. Thiel
FireRescue1 Editorial Advisor

Fifteen years ago, as a recruit firefighter in Fairfax County, Virginia, I was fortunate to hear Chief Gaines' welcome speech at an early point in my fire and emergency services career.

So it's probably not a surprise that I agree with his assessment of the current state of our relationship with the communities we serve.

Beyond handling the items listed in the Acting United States Fire Administrator's Fire-Rescue International address, there are a few simple things we can all do to reinforce public trust and confidence.

Be nice!
Retired Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini is very fond of this expression — and he's right. The average citizen doesn't understand the technical aspects of our job, but they definitely feel a certain way depending on how they're treated during all aspects of an emergency incident.

Being run off the road by a careening fire engine doesn't inspire confidence; neither does receiving a sour expression and muttered comments during a fire alarm response at 3 a.m.

Be good!
While they may not understand the details, anyone watching an emergency response can generally see if the involved fire-EMS personnel are calm, confident, and competent.

When you have it, take the time to explain what you did to homeowners, spectators, and fellow responders from other agencies.

Be a student!
Never stop learning. One of the great things about the fire and emergency services, career and volunteer, is the fact that we can never know everything about the multiple facets of the job.
Take charge of your own professional development and learn something new, or practice something old, every day.

Be a teacher!
Pass it on. We all have something to contribute to our brothers and sisters in service. Remember how you felt as a new probie (aka, candidate, newbie, rookie, or booter)?

Take someone under your wing and become a trusted coach and mentor. People will notice...

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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