The Environment of the Fire Station

Upcoming Courses


"The Environment of the Fire Station" Fall 2018 Textbook Information Form

Course description

Prerequisite: Station Officer Dealing with People or Station Officer Dealing with New Operations

In Station Officer: Dealing With People students are presented with a station fairly isolated from its environment. In Station Officer: Dealing With New Operations students are presented with new operations that arise from the initiative of chief officers as responses to external demands and events. In this course students examine some of these external factors. A wise station officer will scan the environment to prepare for changes. Among the external factors to consider are:

  • the municipal government that signs many paycheques;
  • the chief officers who give orders and decide who gets promoted;
  • provincial government legislation on employment equity and equality of access to service;
  • firefighter unions that require station officers to balance loyalty to the union with loyalty to the department;
  • for volunteer departments, apparatus purchases that require a balance of objective performance criteria and preference for certain manufacturers, models and features.

In brief this course will look at:

  • Local Government
  • Employment Equity
  • Unions
  • Chief officers
  • Dealing with Change

Each unit promotes learning through reading, studying and preparing assignments.

Learning objectives

Unit One

  • appreciate the forces affecting municipalities;
  • understand typical organizational structures of municipalities and the location of the fire department in that structure;
  • appreciate the municipal budget process; and
  • appreciate the effect of case law on the liability of municipalities and fire departments.

Unit Two

  • appreciate the varying relations with different chief officers despite so called unity of command;
  • understand how chief officers have more responsibility and less power;
  • understand how chief officers have been co-opted by municipal officials; and
  • understand how chief officers can suffer burn out.

Unit Three

  • recognize blatant and systemic discrimination;recognize the application of the objectives of equal opportunity in the fire department;appreciate the advantages of a diverse workforce in the fire service; and
  • be able to define sexual harassment.

Unit Four

  • appreciate how power relations between management and labour explain the current relationship between the union local and fire department management;
  • appreciate the balancing role a company officer must play between responsibilities to senior officers and responsibilities to the union local; and
  • appreciate the role of seniority in collective agreements and its effect on job security.

Unit Five

  • appreciate the social psychological reasons for resistance to change in fire departments;
  • appreciate the structural reasons for resistance to change in fire departments;
  • understand Greiner’s research on processes leading to change in organizations; and
  • apply Greiner’s research to the fire department.

Course author

John Benoit, Ph.D., 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.