Firehouse

JAN 2017

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AIR MANAGEMENT l Firehouse l A7 AIR MANAGEMENT of travel distance, time and operational support needed to manage air supply during emergency operations. As an industry and a brother- hood, this innovation must be adopted throughout North America. To under- stand how to be successful in this com- plex of a change, we need to better understand the concept of innovation and look into all of our organizations to determine how to successfully move FARS forward. An organization's "innovative- ness" can be identified as the degree to which an organization is relatively earlier in adopting new ideas than the other members of a system (Rogers, 2003). In the case of the FARS system, it is considered an innovative life safety system in the eyes of the International Fire Code, and not many communi- ties have adopted it. Much like the other fire protection systems in our industry's history, FARS has been met with measurable resistance from many of the special interest groups, but the tools have had some limited acceptance by what sociologists would identify as early-adopters. The Innovation Adoption Life- cycle is often referred to by sociologists and can help illustrate the five levels, or groups, of acceptance of something new. The process of a group's (or society's) acceptance can be modeled through a normal distribution or bell curve (see chart above). The model identifies the first group—the ones who are risk-takers; they are called innovators. Innovators are active problem-solvers and continu- ally seek out new ideas. In the case of FARS, the PFD has indeed led the way with an aggressive building code that mandates FARS in big box structures as well as high-rise buildings. The PFD made an early commitment after the loss of Firefighter Tarver to improve the survivability of its firefighters at every opportunity—and that commitment resonates with the Innovator Model. The early-adopters are often the agencies that will ask the tough ques- tions, visit innovators systems and take measured risks to implement new systems, even if there may be bugs and nuances to be worked out. The early majority organizations may deliberate for some time before ulti- mately adopting a new idea like FARS, but they follow with deliberate willing- ness to adopt innovations, but seldom lead efforts in their communities. The late majority and laggards are where most fire service leaders like to tread. The late majority remains skepti- cal, regardless of the pressures and sci- ence. In fact, the late majority often will not adopt a change like FARS until most of the other agencies in their area have done so, or only if they are mandated. The laggards are the traditional- ists. Laggards are organizations whose leaders possess no opinions, are not connected to the larger fire service and are concerned with only themselves. The decisions in these organizations are based on tradition and past genera- tions' decisions, and their innovations move at a crawl. The Diffusion of Innovations The- ory is relevant to any organizational or societal change, but it is quite illustra- tive in the case of FARS and the fire service. FARS is available today, to everyone, and is critical to the safety of the public and to the firefighters. The technology adds a higher level of safety and efficiency to the big box structure fireground, as well as high-rise and tunnel operations, and with persis- tence and pressure, even the laggards will eventually adopt it, and we may never have to read another line-of-duty fatality report from another firefighter dying from asphyxiation inside a big box structure. n References Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of inno- vations (5 th ed.). New York: New York: Free Press. NIOSH report: Southwest Supermarket Fire (Phoenix): www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/ reports/face200113.html. NIOSH report: Warehouse Fire (Kan- sas City, MO): www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/ reports/face9948.html Coleman, R. Lifeline in the Sky: Train- ing Manual for Firefighter Air Systems. Retrieved from M. Gagliano. Innovators 2.5% 13.5% 34% 16% 34% Early Adopters Early Majority Late Majority Laggards The Innovation Adoption Lifecycle can help illustrate the five levels, or groups, of acceptance of something new. The process of a group's acceptance can be modeled through a normal distribution or bell curve. Brian Schaeffer is the interim chief for the Spokane, WA, Fire Department. His profes- sional life has spanned more than 25 years, serving in fire departments in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. He serves on numerous local and state public safety and health-related committees, and has lectured on issues such as the psychology of decision-making, servant leadership and high-performing organizations.

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