Personal Development for the Professional Responder

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Personal development is a term we are all familiar with and we would hope the term “Professional Responder” would resonate in the minds of those in public safety.

As I think back in time, I reflect on what it means to me, to be a professional responder. Professionalism, I feel, is often thought of as a word that only applies to those in career and combination services, or was when I started my career years back. 19 years later, it becomes very accurate and relevant to realize that we all have professional and, in some cases, nonprofessional public safety members. I do believe though that some who are nonprofessional sometimes consider themselves to be something they in fact are not.

I think this is the key link in where personal development relates and takes hold.

I have come to realize with every moment of forward movement in the fire service that what was, and is a necessity is the drive to identify and act on personal development.

Early in my career as a firefighter I wanted to take every class that I could get my hands on to improve my certification level, and my desires to be a better trained firefighter. 4 to 5 years into the service though, I became apparent to me that without means of local training that I would have to either travel or pay to do these things outside of the bimonthly training meetings at the local firehouse. After a while I’ll certainly be the first to admit that the “firefighter killer” had found me.


Complacency that was created by other firefighters, the struggle to find or participate in training, company officers not generating or encouraging the need for, or facilitating in house training classes.

Soon thereafter I registered what the difference between myself at this moment, and those in the fire service which I thought to be excelling in the service were. That moment of realization, little did I know, would change my life forever, and not only in the firehouse but in life. By identifying that said individuals had pursued and sparked the inner fire, which is within us all, they had in sense started holding themselves accountable through personal development.

Once this had sunk in, over several months of thought processing, it was obvious. This was the key to where I wanted this service to take me to. The rest is for the books.

Immediately, I held myself accountable and sat down to create a personal development list of goals, made up of both short- and long-term goals. Then it started to unfold. In layman’s terms, it was like trying to walk to California from Georgia without a road map, but when I introduced into the equation the personal development, it was just like I had paid the lady at the gas station for a AAA road map of the country.

This map displayed every place I had came from, to where I had planned on going at the end, with dozens upon dozens of black dots in between.

These dots were the short- and long-term goals, with rewards also scattered about, say a dream trip to FDIC, or an opportunity to hear Chief Alan Brunnacini speak at a conference.

With risk comes reward, with hard work comes reward.

When we mile mark ourselves, its important along the way to pull through the drive-thru window and have ourselves a dipped cone from the DQ. This applies in the fire service too. Never stop challenging yourself, never give up on yourself when you encourage setbacks. Sometimes the road detours, or a bridge might be out.

No big deal. Back away, stop and strategize, this is all part of the plan.

Why would you want it any other way?

Life’s never perfectly planned, nor is a fire scene or emergency incident. Heck what better way to train your mind to the random changing factors and events then by recognizing these things.

In the end of life or service, hindsight is always 20/20. The trick my brother, is to listen to the senior men, and most importantly YOURSELVES, and seize these opportunities to propel oneself into the career which you seek.

This concept and realm applies also to not only career and combination firefighters, but rather to all firefighters in the service.

The need for personal development is an equally important need across the ENTIRE service.

It is imperative that we all grow in ourselves, as a team, and together as multiple company services toward the end goal of providing the best emergency incident response for the customer.

The customer doesn’t want that, they EXPECT that.

Set your bar to the customer’s bar. This is key.

Captain Andrew T. Leard, HCFD- Station 4 can be reached on Instagram @master_the_craft

Bill Dungey is a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is focused on fitness, mindset development and finding training opportunities to help the fire service make things better.

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