Lexington Uses Merit for Promotions
MERIT ALONE is the basis for promotion in the Lexington, Ky., Fire Department. It is used in a system which Chief Earl R. McDaniel describes as a great morale builder, a stimulant to ambition, and the fairest method known today for making promotions.
At the time a probationary fireman enters the job he is assigned a number and a personnel file which he carries throughout his career. In addition to other pertinent data, the file contains grade sheets on which his progress and marks are entered in a continuing training and rating program that carries right through until his retirement. Contents of this file are an important factor in promotion examinations, and therefore contribute greatly to the efficiency of the Lexington Fire Department as a whole.
The recruit is given a 14-day preentry, or orientation period covering the basics of fire fighting and related subjects. At the end of this period he takes a written test, and if successful he is assigned to a company, carrying the personnel file and the first of a multitude of grading sheets with him. During the next six months of the probationary period the recruit is expected to complete the 10 Oklahoma A. & M. textbooks recommended for firemanic training and at the completion of each book he is tested and graded by the company officer. The company commander also fills out a monthly merit rating sheet for the recruit which is averaged each year and permanently recorded in the personnel file. The recruit, as well as all firemen, is expected to attend all required house drills and the two annual training periods at the training grounds.
On completion of the six months probationary period, the recruit is again tested and a passing mark makes him a permanent civil service employee, and puts him on the road to becoming a Grade A fireman. It takes 30 months for a recruit to become a Grade A fireman, during the course of which he is tested every six months to record his progress. At the completion of three years satisfactory service, the in-grade fireman is eligible to take examinations for promotion to either lieutenant usually specialized as mechanic, radioman, alarm division, fire prevention bureau, or as company captain.
The promotion examination consists of a written test and an oral interview, with chief officers on the appointing board. The schedule for grading is as follows. Average grade of merit rating sheets; oral interview; written test; and a ½ point for each year of seniority with 10 years service needed to qualify for any points. These grades are added together and divided by four for the final grade. The appointment of a new officer is not considered permanent until successful completion of six months service in the rank. This system is used for all appointments made in the Lexington Fire Department. A captain seeking promotion also has been graded each month by a chief officer, and in turn, the chief officers have been graded by the chief of department.
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Once promoted, Lexington firemen enter the officers training program which also calls for grading sheets. Monthly staff meetings are conducted by the chief of department for the purpose of discussing the problems of the day, operating procedure changes, and any other related action affecting the department operations. Outside instructors are invited from the utilities companies, an automotive club and business organizations such as IBM for the purpose of instruction of safety procedure and others. The program consists of classes on safety; fire fighting (preplanning) in which buildings in a hazardous zone or offering the possibility of large loss are diagrammed for possible fire fighting; postmortem in which an analysis is made of all large fires. Here again, the grading sheets are used and will have the same bearing on promotions. Reproduction of the rating sheet, examination record and fire training record are shown elsewhere on these pages.