Establishing a Culture

In previous articles we have discussed various generations that one may be involved with and now we need to ask the question of how we create a positive culture for the youngest generation members, or the Z generation. Earlier we looked at the GROOM method and how it can be best utilized for the recruitment of individuals for public safety.  image

This method can be very beneficial and useful when included with the Explorers programs where students and young adults in high school and/or community college are exposed to the skills and techniques of firefighting and also with emergency medical technicians at the basic levels.

Students interested in law enforcement have similar opportunities and programs. In today’s public safety environment, there are new challenges that may deter one from joining the forces but, what is needed in all areas of public safety is a positive organization work culture that enables any employee to feel a sense of belonging and instrumental to meet the demands of the community. For review here is the GROOM Method:


If a program is a high school pathway program, let’s get the students involved with the fire and EMS related classes that not only count for dual credit but also serve as credit for the necessary certifications required within our career field. Some restrictions on a person’s age may be evident but at least we are getting the skills developed and the understanding of what will be expected once one is a candidate for employment. Again, introduction of the demands of the career of fire and EMS.


The recruitment for staffing both fire and EMS is very demanding and competitive. If a student is involved in a high school pathway or an Explorers program, they will likely have developed knowledge, skills and abilities that are required for both fire and EMS. Starting at an early age, high school students turn into applicants that have demonstrated that they have acquired the skills and experience to meet the testing minimums. Recruiting will be seen as an easier task for any Human Resources department as these individuals are typically well trained and educated.


This equates to the simple fact that one is able to perform the given tasks of firefighting or emergency medical services. Although they may be simple and basic commands or directives, the individual performing the directives can and will demonstrate those directives to a high level of expectancy based on the fact that the experience and discipline was gained in either the high school program or the Explorers program.


As the young first responder begins a career, they can and will see the need for advancement in each of the fields. The opportunity that began in the high school and Explorers programs, will be present during one’s career and that opportunity will be granted to those who have taken advantage of fellow workers as well as college degree programs that are numerous across the United States and now, even more than ever, are being offered in the on-line format.


In both fire and EMS, there will be a time when the first responder will be tasked with managing people or programs. On emergency scenes, people are always looking for direction and the first responder will be the one who provides that direction. In the station life, there will always be the need for managing people and programs. Depending on the career ladder and interests of each responder, one will promote to a new position and begin managing people and programs.

In any successful organization, municipal, governmental or private there will be the leaders and the followers. But, in leadership, where do we establish what direction the organization and its employees are going? Hopefully it starts at the top and filters down through the organizational chart. In each of those positions, one needs to ask do we have the “right” employees in those key positons. These individuals should be demonstrating the goals and the mission of the department as well as recruiting individuals to promote when the need arises.

Internal succession is a must in any organization and here again is where GROOM takes place. With the GROOM method, an organization is constantly evaluating its employees and the performance of the mission statement and reviewing the shortcomings for updates and change. Exemplary employees at all levels should be tapped for their knowledge, skills and abilities to assist the newly recruited employees so that a level of experience is not lost and this talent can be passed on. Internal workforce development of an organization is vital to its overall perception and performance when mitigating an incident. Professionalism is an area that all public safety employees and/or responders continually strive for and want to improve upon.

When we look at the newly recruited or promoted individual, is it expected or desired that they understand the value and benefits of being a professional firefighter/EMT? In a quality organization, that expectation is actually a combined effort from the job description of the application in both new hiring as well as promotional. The public safety arena is best known for its structure and its accountability and at times may be considered a quasi-military operation. Involvement with this type of workforce, are we expecting a lot from its employees? Hopefully the answer is yes and when we demonstrate these expectations from within, the entire unit displays a culture of positive imagery and a top-notch agency.

Uniforms, working equipment and apparatus in the public view, is one of the most impressive qualities and professional demonstrations of a highly organized, well-polished and respected departments. How do we get the desired and expected results of a well-organized, structured and professional organization? The answer may lay within the organization. Does the organization review its policies and procedures on a continual basis and address the shortcomings immediately? Does the organization foster the idea of continued education? Does the organization have role models in key positions that demonstrate the path of professionalism?

In any organization, leadership needs to demonstrate that the mission and goals are all attainable and also seek out avenues of recruitment and promotional options that will start in the high school and continue to the college and university levels of education. Do you need a college degree to put out a fire? No, but to function in a culture that is thriving, structured and accountable then continued education may be the opportunity for the newly hired person to be competitive and promotable into leadership roles. This cultural dynamic is where we can now see the next generation of public safety personnel acquiring either on the job or prior to employment. This can be the wave of the new generation Z employee and they will be part of the new culture in public safety.

Mark Rivero worked for the City of Las Vegas, Nevada, Fire and Rescue from 1992 until 2011, holding positions as firefighter, training officer and, ultimately, professional development officer, creating degree pathways for fire service personnel and bringing in educational institutions to address higher education topics and degrees that were specific for the fire service. He currently serves as a program advisor/site coordinator for Southern Illinois University, and as the chairperson for the doctoral degree path committee for professional development at the National Fire Academy. He also works with the American Council on Education, reviewing fire service courses at various institutions across the United States. Rivero received his doctorate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 2004.

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