Fire chief is in the driver’s seat
Dear MTAS Maven,
We’re hiring our first full-time fire chief. What’s this person’s position in the fire department’s chain-of-command? Which work schedule is the most efficient?
Council Blazing New Path
Dear Blazing Council,
First and foremost, one person should always be accountable for a fire department’s success or failure. That person is the fire chief. Accountability in city government is extremely important. If the chief’s duties spread beyond him, finger-pointing and the "blame game" begin. Avoid this management structure at all costs. Your city does not want to turn back the calendar 50 years.
The best schedule is the business world’s traditional 40-hour week. Also, the chief should attend functions related to the fire department’s success, such as city council meetings, planning and zoning meetings, and seminars and workshops.
The fire chief should live in your city and remain in town most of the time. If you plan to hire someone from outside the community, you should institute two major restrictions: Require the new chief to move to your city, and forbid him from holding any other job. Financial ties to another employer may weaken a fire chief’s leadership. Even if you allow limited outside employment, you must guard against apparent or actual conflicts of interest or ethical violations. These could expose the chief and city to lawsuits.
The fire chief’s entire purpose is managing the fire department. Even in the smallest communities, sometimes the chief works 40 hours a week and he’s the only fire department employee! Cities that have allowed the fire chief to work shifts have witnessed failure, and city officials have regretted this decision. The chief needs to work regular business hours so he: