Improving Internal Communications at Your Fire Department
- Written by Matt Kenyon
- August 23 2016
Fire departments face unique challenges when it comes to their internal communications. With personnel scattered between stations and shifts, it can be difficult to get the same message out to every staff member. Firefighters can feel siloed from the wider organization, only communicating with those on their same shift.
Traditional forms of communication—word of mouth, bulletin boards, paper shift logs, email—are often inefficient and ineffective. If command staff simply send out a department-wide email or ask shift commanders to pass a printed memo along to firefighters, they have no way of guaranteeing that the information reaches everyone on staff. A lack of internal communication can leave firefighters feeling out of the loop, which hurts morale. Miscommunication about policy updates, equipment issues or emergency situations can also impede their ability to do their jobs effectively, and even put them at risk.
Improving internal communications can be as simple as pairing some of the traditional formats with technology tools that make them easier to distribute and track to make sure everyone gets the message. Here are a few ways to improve internal communication in your department:
Require sign-offs on shift logs and important memos
Memos and shift logs are an essential part of making sure every firefighter knows about issues, problems and equipment updates in their station and jurisdiction. Shift logs provide context for the next day’s personnel and reduce the likelihood of duplicate copies of things like maintenance request forms. Memos let firefighters know about important news in the organization and the wider community.
Paper shift logs and memos are easy to overlook and hard to track. Consider moving these essential updates into a policy management software tool such as PowerDMS and requiring every firefighter to sign off on them at the beginning of each shift.
Send out monthly newsletters
Email may not be the most reliable way to distribute essential information, but it can be helpful for letting firefighters know about organization-wide events, announcements and department or individual accomplishments. Instead of flooding staff inboxes with dozens of individual emails each month, create a simple newsletter that you can easily update and distribute on a regular basis. This will help firefighters feel more connected and foster a sense of community in the department as a whole.
Use surveys to gather feedback
Effective internal communication is a two-way street. Along with distributing information, departments also need to make sure officers feel included and heard. Using PowerDMS’s survey tool can be a good starting point. The detailed data reports can help administrators gauge morale, identify the organization’s strengths and learn where the department needs to grow.
Improving internal communications is a huge part of improving your entire organization. Good communication increases employee buy-in, improves retention and ensures that firefighters have the information they need to serve the community well.