Focus when you’re on a call. When you slow down your response, you can be both efficient and effective, and that’s how we do our best work.
Whether you’re in the fire service, in law enforcement, or in a custody setting, we all share one thing in common. Someone asks us for help, and we respond. Whether you’re leaving the fire house, heading from a cold report to an emergency, or walking to an inmate’s cell, we all have one chance to get it right.
But we all have another thing in common. We’re all pressed for time. We have other tasks waiting. It’s easy to be distracted by other pressures. Dispatchers keep broadcasting new requests for service. Supervisors seem to want things done quickly and efficiently. Paperwork stacks up. Our cell phones are a constant nuisance. You may feel as though you’ve got to get through one call to get to the next. But I’m here to ask you to ignore the distractions and slow down.
I hear many stories I see about incidents where the firefighters, or cops, or corrections officers handled calls efficiently, but not effectively. That means they arrived, learned what was wrong, and cleared from the scene quickly. But they failed to solve the problem. One example is a gas leak reported by a citizen. The fire department shows up, conducts a cursory evaluation, and can’t find a problem. An hour later, there’s a gas explosion. Or cops arrive on the scene of shots heard in an area. They drive through and fail to find the gunshot victim. We’ve seen suicides in jails when deputies don’t take the time to hear what an inmate is trying to convey. These things don’t happen, or they happen less frequently, when we slow down.
Each call for service is unique. Whether it’s an inmate asking for assistance or a person reporting a fire. Each call should be thoroughly investigated. This is what you signed on to do, it’s what you’re trained for, and it’s what’s expected of you by your peers, your supervisors, and the public. The only way you can thoroughly investigate every call you go to is to slow down. Slowing down means actively listening to all available information, examining all reasonable angles of the incident, and addressing potential problems that might arise.
We all have distractions and pressures that can hinder our focus. These may cause us to hurry through calls for service. We can miss details or overlook indications of serious problems. Distractions and pressures are real. I’m not discounting them here. I’m simply asking you to try and set them aside. Focus when you’re on a call. When you slow down your response, you can be both efficient and effective, and that’s how we do our best work.