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Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association and Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs Joint Leadership Recap

Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association and Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs Joint Leadership Recap

Several firefighter hats rest on a table beside candles.

I just got back from attending the 2019 Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association and Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs Joint Leadership Conference with my department’s chief. What a great way to connect with other progressive fire departments, officers and industry leaders! That on top of an “always learning” mentality made for an excellent couple days near Nashville.

On the agenda was a top-notch group of speakers which were all engaging, experienced and excellent teachers.

The program agenda:

  • Technology Deployment and Solutions for Disaster Response/Daily Operations
  • If Ignorance is Bliss – Why Aren’t We Hapy. – Dr. Dale Henry
  • Core Elements of Leadership – Division Chief Mark Nugent & Fire Chief Doug Eggiman
  • Fireground Leadership and Operational Excellence – Christopher Naum
  • Senior Fire Officer’s Guide to Today’s Buildings on Fire – Christopher Naum
  • Seven Rules of Admiral Hyman Rickover – Gordon Graham
  • The Top Ten Things that Get Firefighters in Trouble – Gordon Graham
  • Excellence – How do we get there? – Bob Norton

Some key points that from the above that really stood out to me that I want to share

  • Technology – how are you using real-time data collection? Lots of technology available to use from geodatabase and CAD pairing of fire hazard classifications.
  • In your reports are you providing the value or conservation of the property you saved? For example, note not only what part and $ value was lost, but what was saved due to your actions? X square feet worth approximately $xx,xxx. That information is important and supports the value you bring to your community
  • Want to lead? You need to serve.
  • Never say “It’s not my job…” and “I wish I had…”
  • Elements of Leadership: Core elements, mentor/teacher, company officer (it’s ok to say no), business manager, political acumen, chief officer
  • Core elements (from above) that (at a minimum) all your members need to possess: Safety minded, nice, integrity/moral compass, prompt, listener, honesty, trust, communicator (verbal and written), service-minded, competency and pride
  • Couple websites to check out: and
  • Know your department/personnel limitations, know your capabilities
  • Understand how buildings and fire perform together
  • Risk vs reward… is it worth trying to save? At what risk?
  • Your opportunity is 20 minutes from when the fire started… once you arrive how much time do you have left? 10 min? Less? Be aware of the structures predictability to probability performance, compromise and collapse and the fire dynamics with your conditioned tactical reflex.
  • High risk, high consequence
  • What are your problems that lie in wait? What keeps you up at night and how do you address the root cause?
  • 7 Rules for Risk Management (Admiral Hyman Rickover): Continuous improvement, quality people, supervisors behaving like supervisors, respect for the dangers and risks faced, constant and rigorous training/learning (every day), audit process and continuous learning
  • The top 10 things that get Firefighters into trouble (Gordon Graham): Vehicle operations, job-based harassment, integrity, report writing, health and fitness, PPE, social media, alcohol and sex (be responsible and don’t with people you work with), decision-making skills, mental health issues and end of career/life planning
  • Challenge excellence from your organization: through vision, accountability, active presence and be aware of what you and your organization are listening to
  • Excellence is not a one-time event, it’s a habit. A habit is a repeating behavior and behaviors reflect attitudes. What habits do you have now that reflect excellence?
  • How do you change mediocre performance into one of excellence? Build an awareness of what excellence looks like, instill passion into everything, what do you do (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly) to improve as leaders and people, NEVER give up
  • What do you believe in more? Your vision? Abilities? Or fears?

These are my key takeaways initially… I’m sure to find more as I’m still sifting through my notes and materials from this conference. Working now on a report back to my department to transfer my learnings to our members. We’re all in this together and need to strive for excellence. We deserve it and our communities deserve it.

Go get ’em!

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