Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This... November 2019 Issue Number 232

Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.

I hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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Upcoming Events  

Now available! On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.

Fire-Rescue International will take place in Phoenix, AZ August 19-21, 2020.

Women in Fire will hold an international conference in Spokane, WA September 23-26, 2020.


In the News

The Power of the Inside-Outsider

In decades of working with fire departments around the world, I have frequently asked the question: "How well prepared are new company officers for their role when they first take that position?" The answer I have universally heard is: Not very.

The problem usually isn't technical skills. New officers are most often experienced firefighters who have had years to hone skills in firefighting, rescue, EMS, and specialized response. Instead, new officers often struggle with the more personal side of the job: giving feedback, resolving conflict, discerning developing problems, listening effectively, seeing the big picture.

New officers frequently get some kind of training to prepare for the position, but it might be focused on specialized areas of the job, such as how to write reports or call for additional resources at a large incident.

Years ago, I asked a number of officers from a large urban fire department, "What was the hardest part of becoming a new company officer?" Without exception, they responded, "Finding the balance between being in charge and being one of the guys."

Of course it is important to be part of the crew, but being too close carries risks. People who are too much on the inside sometimes lose sight of the context of what is happening around them, and how they are contributing to it. This has manifested in officers doing bad things-- engaging in hazing, allowing unprofessional behavior to become normal.

This is where those members who are both insiders and outsiders may have an advantage. For firefighters who are different in some way, being a complete insider has never been an option. This can cause some feelings of alienation at times, but when becoming an officer, it can also provide critical perspective for that new role.


News Brief

A federal jury has ordered New York City to pay millions of dollars to FDNY emergency medical technicians and paramedics who were not paid for time spent on preparations before and after their shifts. More than 2,500 EMTs and paramedics signed onto the suit, which claimed the city never paid them for 15 minutes prior to their tours used to prep their equipment, as well as the 15 minutes after every shift to re-stock their ambulances and exchange information with the next tour — even though they were logged into the electronic time keeping system for city employees during that time.

Source: NYDailynews.com, October 26, 2019


Sexual Harassment Update

Public Recording

Firefighters are sometimes confused about how the First Amendment affects the ability for them and others to record emergency operations taking place in a public area. There have been incidents where firefighters got into confrontations with members of the community who were filming firefighters' actions on scene. Sometimes firefighters want to invoke HIPAA laws when telling those individuals they may not record. There have also been cases where firefighters have been disciplined for recording or photographing themselves or others while on emergency response.

Part of the confusion comes from understanding the intention of the First Amendment. This amendment was written to protect private citizens speaking or acting on their own behest only. It was never intended to prevent employers from reasonably limiting their employees' freedom of expression.

So for an employer to enforce a policy that firefighters may not photograph or record themselves while on duty is reasonable and legal outside of a few extreme exceptions. Lawyers and courts are still working out the details of the First Amendment when it comes to social media.

As for HIPAA-- that is a law that applies to caregivers in an official capacity, not to bystanders or witnesses.

Emergency responders can deny access to an area for legitimate reasons, but cannot prevent a bystander with a phone from otherwise recording what is happening.

A lot of firefighters don't like this fact, but it is the reality of the world we live in. The best response is to be competent and professional in every situation, and otherwise ignore the distraction of people gawking behind their phones.

Source: firelawblog.com


© Linda F. Willing, 2019