Fire Department Human Resource Management I

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Human Resource Management I Fall 2018 Textbook Information Form.

Course description

This course is required in the Certificate in Fire Service Administration
Prerequisite: None

About 90% of a typical career fire department’s budget is the cost of compensation for employees in wages and fringe benefits. That part of fire protection which is the mandate of the fire department is very labour intensive. Some may wish to dispute the figure arguing that a portion of the water distribution system must also be included, since the grid is usually installed to meet fire suppression and sprinkler needs as well as industrial commercial and domestic use. Be that as it may, someone has to knock down the fire and, since fires are highly variable, officers must be able to handle size up and fire ground command. Those in volunteer or composite departments might agree that their budgets show negligible personnel costs. This would ignore the valuable resource of the volunteer labour. Whatever the case, fire departments cannot operate without trained and motivated personnel who can function both independently and as a team depending on the requirements of the situation.

How can the fire department obtain and “mold” such personnel? Once such personnel are “molded” how do they remain that way, or better, improve beyond that mold? This course will consider these issues recognizing that the answer may vary depending on whether the department is urban, rural, or suburban, depending on the frequency of working fires, depending on the size of the department, depending on whether the department is career, composite or volunteer, and finally dependent upon whether personnel are unionized or not (and if unionized whether such locals have the right to strike or not). This course will not present the standard topics of personnel management “dressed up” for the fire service. Rather the organizing principle will be to consider personnel problems within the fire service and then consider ways to address these problems prevailing, although not exclusively, using standard personnel management practices.

Learning objectives

Unit One

By a combination of reading, seminar participation and assignment completion, the student should be able to:

  • appreciate the causes of many personnel problems which arise as adaptations to station life;
  • develop and adapt modifications to station life activities so as to correct these personnel problems.

Unit Two

By a combination of reading, seminar participation and assignment completion, the student should be able to:

  • identify and justify criteria for the selection of firefighters;
  • modify firefighter’s job descriptions depending on fire department need;
  • actively recruit and fairly select (or at least with justification select) members of minority groups for the fire service;
  • design and justify methods of promotion for fire officers.

Unit Three

By a combination of reading, seminar participation and assignment completion, the student should be able to:

  • describe characteristics of the typical volunteer department and typical volunteer firefighter;
  • identify trends which affect volunteer recruitment;
  • enhance motivation by training and promotion;
  • understand the interaction of factors which determine leadership effectiveness.
  • Explain the process which leads to instability in the ratios of volunteer to paid personnel in composite departments
  • Propose and evaluate changes which would attempt to harmonize relations between volunteer and paid personnel.

Unit Four

After completing this unit, you should:

  • appreciate the extent of the impact of the NFPA 1500 series on the fire service;
  • be able to devise a rational means of allocating scarce resources so as meet safety standards; and
  • appreciate the cognitive biases that hinder obtaining a rational means to meet safety standards.
  • describe the general adaptation syndrome;
  • describe the emotional manifestations of stress;
  • define post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • outline the steps necessary to develop a critical incident response team; and
  • present the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a physical fitness program within the fire department.

Course author

John Benoit, Ph.D.
John Benoit has been an applied sociologist, employing social science research to fire service administration. He obtained his PhD in sociology from the Johns Hopkins University in 1975, writing a dissertation on the effect of information flow on risk taking. He had worked at Dalhousie for 24 years, spending the last 20 as Director, Fire Management Education. During this time he wrote and co-wrote several of the courses, editing others. His principal areas of expertise include fire department-municipal government relations, the volunteer fire service, some aspects of personnel management, and theoretical perspectives on emergency management. In addition to course development, he has conducted research and published in the areas of volunteer fire administration, and disaster management. John recently retired and is now examining the effect of rural volunteer fire departments on the local community, and the impact of courageous experience and social capital on local economic development.