In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.
Fargo (ND) Fire Department
Achieving Success Isn’t an Accident: the Higher Reliability Organizing Path
Wednesday, April 20, 3:30 p.m.-5:15 p.m.
“Why do fire department members do what they do and make the decisions they do?” That’s a question I wanted to answer while studying fire service leadership. I kept encountering the concept of higher reliability organizations (HRO) and how they use their culture to increase reliability in decision making and to learn from mistakes made to prevent it from happening again. This reduces the chances for loss of life or property. The wildland fire community has identified specific ways to progress toward being an HRO for many years with positive results, so I applied that to structural fire departments. It would definitely benefit the fire service on a broad scale.
I found that structured fire departments have applied the HRO concepts in a general form; the incident command system is built on many HRO principles. I hope that by specifically identifying how structural departments can intentionally (not haphazardly) work toward higher reliability organizing and adopting HRO principles across the fire service, it will not only reduce the line-of-duty injuries and deaths but also help departments continue meeting the public’s expectations. Constant learning and adapting to changing needs as a department continues to learn is a basic HRO tenet.
Students recognize that many of the systems we already use in the fire service promote the HRO concepts, such as constantly learning for improvement. Members of the fire service, particularly those at FDIC, identify with constantly learning to improve themselves and enjoy learning about a system that formalizes and encourages this company-, department-, or service-wide.
Many students recognize that an HRO would be more conducive to younger members. It opens communication and participation from the bottom up while recognizing that a hierarchy is necessary to some extent or in certain situations. An HRO finds a balance between encouraging communication while maintaining a functional organization. Since younger members of the department want to be involved in the direction the department is going and have input in decisions, they recognize that the HRO concepts encourage this involvement, which is beneficial to them.