At FDIC on Tuesday, March 22, Seattle (WA) Fire Department Captain Mike Gagliano and Fire Department of New York Captain Michael Dugen offered students a lively yet frank and honest talk about creating the perfect firehouse environment, one that welcomes firefighters rather than alientating them.
There is nothing quite like a firehouse. It can be the most incredible experience of your life or a miserable exile to purgatory. It can be a place of learning where skills are honed and techniques refined or a stagnant cesspool where competence erodes into ineffective complacency. What is it that causes one place to be cohesive and brimming with camaraderie while the place just down the road is filled with dissension and drudgery?
Gagliano began by saying, “We want to build a firehouse where everyone wants to be; a place where we take care
Dugan then explained, “Everyone contributes to the vision of what we can be. Where you choose to focus your efforts will determine the degree of your influence.”
Both captains then put the responsibility for firehouse morale squarely on the shoulders of the department chiefs, by explaining, “The number-one thing that destorys morale is watching firefighters do something that everyone knows is wrong. If I can’t look you in the eyes and see that you care, you’ve lost me.”
Dugan continued, “You can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to how you respond to certain things. Focus on things that matter.”
Gagliano and Dugan strongly believe in the impact a good firehouse can have on both individuals and fire departments as a whole. Gagliano says, “No matter the size, make-up, or primary mission of an individual firehouse, we believe it is possible to implement some basic core principles and make it a great place to work. As we’ve traveled around the country, many individual firefighters are relaying the message to us that they love the job but work in a place that is stealing their passion. This class is for all those out there who truly want to work in a place that understands the mission, prepares for battle and takes care of its members. Once you work at a place like that, you will never be comfortable with less.”
Gagliano concluded, “Our hope is that every student leaves the class refreshed and energized to make their firehouse a great place to work. And that they feel better prepared to meet the challenges that inevitably come from those who have given up and are settling for mediocrity. We have the greatest job in the world… It’s time to act like it and make our firehouses excellent.”