Fire department policies and procedures help guide everything from day-to-day internal operations to emergency responses, to individual firefighter conduct.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) help firefighters understand and meet expectations and safety guidelines.
Plus, when everyone is on the same page, fire departments can operate more consistently and efficiently.
Here are just a few of the reasons fire procedures are so important:
Firefighters regularly face incredibly dangerous situations. In the fire service, many risks are unavoidable.
Fire department SOPs help increase firefighter safety, minimizing unnecessary risks and helping prepare firefighters for emergency situations.
Fire department policies and procedures include proactive safety measures, such as pre-planning and health and fitness requirements.
When firefighters respond to a scene, firefighting procedures for things such as communication, searches, door entry, air management, and more help ensure they can respond effectively and stay safe.
Fire policy puts all firefighters the same page, helping them work as a unit and make good decisions in rapidly changing situations.
It’s essential that fire department guidelines are codified in writing and not just passed along as unofficial accepted practices. Department heads should have every staff member read and sign off on policies to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them when it matters most.
Consistency across the entire department
Fire departments may include hundreds of firefighters working in different stations and on different shifts. It’s essential that they all follow the same standard operating procedures.
Consistency in fire department policies and procedures matters for several reasons. First, fire departments are ultimately accountable to the public in the community they serve. Consistent fire policy ensures that members of the community receive excellent service from any staff member they may interact with.
Consistency also helps with smooth internal operations. Firefighters know they have the same expectations and receive the same treatment as everyone else in the department. This limits internal conflicts and streamlines internal communication.
Perhaps most importantly, consistent fire department policies increase trust and make inter-shift and inter-department collaboration possible.
Fire procedures help firefighters know what they are supposed to do in an emergency situation. And they can also know that they are working from the same playbook as the person next to them – regardless of their role, station, or shift.
As we’ve written before, accountability in the fire service is essential for safety and public trust:
“Civilians trust firefighters to keep them safe and responsibly use public money and resources.
Unethical behavior breaks community trust and reflects badly not only on the department but on the fire service as a whole.”
Chiefs and commanders should hold every staff member up to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. The only way to do that is to put those expectations and principals in writing.
Fire department policies and procedures create a basis for accountability. When fire policy is in place, leaders can compare a firefighter’s actions with the expectations laid out in policies and procedures. They can take the necessary corrective action when the actions fail to meet the standards.
Accountability in the fire service isn’t about micromanaging every action. It’s about bringing clarity and creating a culture of integrity and excellence.
Protect the department
Lacking formal policies and procedures can leave fire departments at risk for costly lawsuits.
Policies about issues such as discrimination, harassment, termination, and workplace safety keep departments in compliance with employment law. They provide clarity on prohibited behavior both inside and outside the workplace.
Firefighting procedures help guide decisions in dangerous situations. If an incident does occur, fire department policies and procedures help limit the department’s liability. The department can prove that its internal policies and practices were not to blame.
Fire department software for policy management and training can help with this, proving that employees read policies and received training.
In any case, it’s essential to have strong fire department policies and procedures in place before an incident occurs. Leaders shouldn’t wait until something goes wrong to develop fire policy.