Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association

Together We Make a Difference

Building on rich traditions that have shaped the organization since its founding in 1929, the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs’ Association has evolved into an active, powerful organization that works to benefit the Wisconsin Fire and Emergency Service and Wisconsin’s Fire Officers. From leadership development to legislative advocacy, the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association provides the resources that its members need to succeed.


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President's Message

Staying True to Our Mission

Wisconsin Fire Chiefs,

In my previous message I addressed the issues we as the fire service face during this COVID-19 pandemic. We went from 15 Days to slow the spread, to a complete lock down of our countries infrastructure, then to phases of re-opening, and now with the uptick in cases here in Wisconsin, we have been told we are again moving backwards. The most recent order issued is that businesses will be reduced 25% capacity.

I think we all have been hit by the Covid-19 slump! Fire Departments are facing major impacts no matter how established they are, and are having to re-look at how they manage and operate their departments. This includes re-visitation of their operational plan and economic impact is yet to be seen.

Everything we do in the Fire Service revolves around teamwork. How do we overcome this obstacle when we must social distance? We also have to look at how we continue to carry on our mission. If our priorities are straight, our missions begin with Public Education, Fire Prevention, and training of our personnel. COVID has thrown a huge curveball in our efforts to stay true to our tasks.

And finally, we must address one more issue. How is this affecting the mental and physical health of our staff? For the most part, Public safety personnel are very dynamic people, we feast off of interaction with the public and our co-workers. Employee well-being must be a key focus during this time.  We must be understanding with ourselves, our families, and each other, as many people are rearranging child care and other family responsibilities at the same time.  Leaders must search for ways to motivate and involve their staff to help boost morale and reduce worry and stress.

So, all this talk, and where do the answers lie? When will this pandemic be over? When will we get back to normal and what will our new normal be in the fire service?

I don’t have the answers, but I have some suggestions. Number 1, take care of you! You can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself. I know it’s hard to believe, but the fires will still go out and chaos will be handled, even if we are not there. Take care of your family, you can’t leave them behind, and lastly, delegate. You can’t fight this beast alone.

My next suggestion may be a difficult one to accomplish for some. I am going to address Public Education and Training. In my first message to you all, I used the phrase, “It’s time to embrace change and the challenges we face. We must stop complaining about the new fire service and invest in the generation at our heels.” Yup, here it comes… Remember those people we continue to complain about, that new breed of Firefighters who don’t know the difference between a flat head and a Philips screwdriver? Yeah them, they may know a little about computers and social media! I am currently leaning on this group to educate our public during Fire Prevention Month. We are doing a Virtual Open House that you can view on Facebook, our local TV channel, and YouTube. Schools are currently using our Fire Prevention videos as an educational piece in place of us going into their facilities due to Covid-19. After only a couple of days we have had thousands of views.

Training has been tough, but that millennial and Gen Z groups can sure help here also. There are a plethora of things we can borrow right off the internet -- Anyone heard of UL? They provide some of the best stuff ever on their website to support the science of what we do! In Sun Prairie, we have also re-arranged our training schedule. We used to train our POC/Volunteer staff the first and third Mondays of the month, and featured two different trainings. Now we have divided into three smaller groups and we train the first three Mondays.  We have reduced subject matter but are still keeping our folks current. For leadership, we are doing a virtual training with Frank Viscuso, the author of Step Up and Lead.

Chiefs, in these difficult times, we must not sway from our mission. We as Wisconsin Fire Chiefs are a dynamic organization. We are characterized by teamwork, integrity, community focus, and proactive leadership. We will adapt and we will overcome!

Yours in Service,
Christopher Garrison, WSFCA President