The Hidden Value of Fire Department Policies

By Sam DiGiovanna

Fire department policies - LexipolThe value we place on something determines how we treat it. For instance, you probably wouldn’t give much thought to caring for an old, banged-up, no longer compliant helmet. But if that helmet was given to you by the widow of your friend who died in the line of duty, you would likely cherish it forever.

Too often, departments regard their policies like that old, banged-up helmet—but without the sentimental value. We don’t give much thought to the three-ring binder that houses our policies; it probably hasn’t been opened for quite some time. When we do look at or think about policy, it’s usually because we have to—we’re testing for a promotion, or something went wrong and someone’s getting written up.

But what if you knew that inside that binder was the potential to save your department thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars? What if it saved your career, your department’s reputation—and even quite possibly a life?

In fact, policies do have enormous value for your department. That’s why Gordon Graham names them as one of the “5 Pillars” of successful organizations. Well-written, up-to-date fire department policies:

• Help all members operate consistently by laying out clear direction and guidelines
• Keep members safe—and employed!—by outlining prohibited and permitted behaviors
• Enhance operational excellence by incorporating best practices so that we don’t have to keep repeating the same mistakes or reinventing the wheel
• Provide important defense for legal and personnel complaints, which in turn can save money by shielding you from lawsuits

So, how can you start to prioritize policy so that you and your fellow department members see it for the value it really holds? Following are a few suggestions:

  • Review policy daily. I’m not talking about wading through a mass of paper every day. Just take a small chunk of a policy, something you can wrap your head around. Maybe start a conversation about it at the kitchen table. Does everyone agree on what the policy means? Does it reflect your actual practice? What would happen if you didn’t follow this policy? Such discussions are also a great opportunity to identify whether your policies need to be updated to align with current laws, regulations and best practices.
  • Incorporate policy into training. This is a more formal version of the kitchen-table discussion. Most fire departments train each shift, but when was the last time you connected that training drill with a corresponding policy? Again, aim small—you don’t want to make the troops glassy-eyed. Take a few minutes to review one related policy aspect before you start a hands-on evolution. Over time, this will help everyone better understand and comply with department policy.
  • Research policy. Do you know where your department’s policies come from? What parts are required by law, and what parts wound up there as a result of a particular individual? Doing some research on your policies—tracking down legal requirements, going back through older versions if you have them, comparing them to other departments’ policies—can create an understanding of how and why the policy got to where it is today.

Once we realize the worth of fire department policies, we no longer read and adhere to them merely out of obligation. Instead, we realize their true value to help create the fire department we strive for in our mission and vision. Like the old helmet, their value is not monetary, but in what they mean to us as individual firefighters and to the department as a whole.

A policy manual may look like just another training manual or reference book. But it has a much greater intrinsic value: the ability to protect, guide and encourage us, creating a better, safer, more consistent organization.

Lexipol’s Fire Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies that support a professional, accountable work environment. Contact us today for more information or to request a free demo.

Sam DiGiovannaSAM DIGIOVANNA is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. He also is a consultant for Lexipol Fire Services.

 

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Northampton (PA) Department of Corrections

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Major Jeff Fox
Vigo County (IN) Sheriff's Office

“Lexipol’s Implementation Services program was key to getting our manuals off the shelf. If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be implemented today. Departments should recognize their limitations and realize that they likely don’t have the resources to do it on their own. Implementation Services is key to getting it done.”

Chief Deputy Ray Saylo
Carson City (NV) Sheriff's Office

"It’s a huge priority of this administration to teach policy to our sergeants, and Lexipol’s Daily Training Bulletins help us do that. We are constantly drilling into them that policy will protect them as an individual officer. If they ensure that their people are following policy, even if they’re sued, they will be OK.”

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"Calling Lexipol an insurance policy doesn’t do it justice, because it doesn’t capture the enormous power that partnering with Lexipol provides.”

Chief Deputy Klint Anderson
Weber County (UT) Sheriff's Office

“We spent a considerable amount of money and effort trying to develop and maintain comprehensive and legally based policies and procedures. Lexipol has relieved us of that burden and provided us with a policy system that we have great confidence in and that we can tailor to suit our particular goals and community standards.”

Sheriff Blaine Breshears
Morgan County (UT) Sheriff's Office

“We had a use of force lawsuit, and as soon as the attorneys discovered that we have Lexipol, they said, ‘We won’t have an issue there.’ Our policies were never in question.”

Lt. Craig Capps
White County (TN) Sheriff's Office

"I would recommend Lexipol to any law enforcement agency, whether three-person or 2,000-person—it makes no difference. The program works.”

Chief John Defore
Hiawatha, KS

“By offering 365 daily training bulletins to my officers, I am saving far more than the cost of the software every year. In fact, I was able to show my commissioners a cost savings by utilizing Lexipol for our policy and policy training needs.”

Captain Jeff Schneider
Yakima (WA) Police Department

“KMS tracks and logs when people acknowledge and accept updates, which is very important, and it lets us track who isn’t getting the updates so we can give them the appropriate attention.”

Chief David Maine
The Village of Hunting Valley (OH) Police Department

“What we had before Lexipol had been around for years. It was like every other policy manual I had seen: It didn’t get the updates it needed. The Lexipol manual is a living, breathing document.”

Chief Deputy Lauren Osborne
Surry County (NC) Sheriff’s Office

“If there’s a change as a result of case law, or a procedure that needs to change, Lexipol does the legwork, sends it to us, we approve it and send it out to our people for acknowledgement—and it’s all documented.”

Sheriff Gerald Antinoro
Storey County (NV) Sheriff’s Office

“Lexipol is one of the best products I have seen in my 30+ years in law enforcement.”

Deputy Chief John McGinty
Simi Valley (CA) Police Department

“You get sued for your policies or you get sued for your actions, or both. You can only do so much about actions. But having Lexipol gives me confidence that if we draw a lawsuit, our policies won’t come under attack.”

Chief Kelly Stillman
Rocky River (OH) Police Department

“I can’t say enough about the positives from a chief’s perspective. I don’t know why everyone isn’t with Lexipol.”

Chief Jeff Wilson
Orofino (ID) Police Department

“The Lexipol Policy Manual is easy to use, it’s convenient and you have peace of mind knowing that you have a thorough manual that is going to stand up to any challenge the agency may face.”

Chief Ralph Maher
Oak Creek (CO) Police Department

“With Lexipol, I know our policy manual is going to be up to date. I can turn my back on it today and tomorrow there will be any needed updates waiting for me. That allows me to focus on some of the other things I have to do as a chief.”

Chief Steven Vaccaro
Mokena (IL) Police Department

“If you compare Lexipol to other policy providers, Lexipol is the only one that has policy that has been vetted by other chiefs, industry experts and lawyers. All you have to do is tailor the policies to your agency’s needs.”

Commander Leslie Burns
Mercer Island (WA) Police Department

“Lexipol provides a huge advantage for agencies pursuing accreditation. The tools take about 60% of the difficulty out of the accreditation process. If you want to be accredited, this is the way to do it.”

Deputy Chief Robin Passwater
Kankakee (IL) Police Department

“If you don’t have Lexipol, even with a full-time person dedicated to policy, there’s almost no way you can keep updated on all the laws and also have the training component. It’s an excellent system.”

Assistant Chief Bill Holmer
Glen Ellyn (IL) Police Department

“It’s a no-brainer for me. Someone is watching for changes to laws for me, and then tweaking the content based on those changes or updates in best practices.”

Lt. Ed Alvarez
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) (CA) Police Department

“I like the mobile app because it tells me no matter where I am when I have updates to complete or when people take the DTBs. No matter where I am, I have access. The officers can get real-time updates. Everything is at their fingertips, any time.”

Chief Greg Knott
Basalt (CO) Police Department

“Lexipol gives you peace of mind because the policies that you’re implementing have been reviewed by professionals in the field and by attorneys—not just your agency’s legal counsel.”

Chief Corry Blount
Bartonville (TX) Police Department

“I feel comfortable that when we issue a policy, it covers what it needs to cover. It’s the most comprehensive policy content I’ve used in my career.”

Lt. Victor Pecoraro
Auburn (CA) Police Department

“The updates are super easy because you can pop them open, see the redline versions and be able to edit it on the fly. Once I learned I could do that, I was excited.”

Chief Joseph Morris
Arapahoe Community College (CO) Police Department

“Officers are not infallible. We have limited memories like everyone else. Working under stress presents more challenges. There are times we need to access policies in the field so we are comfortable in our decision making. The mobile application has been great for this!”

Captain Jesus Ochoa
Coronado (CA) Police Department

“Knowing that Lexipol is keeping our policies current means that there isn’t something else for us to worry about. We can focus on our jobs. That definitely gives us peace of mind.”

Chief Steven Vaccaro
Mokena (IL) Police Department

“If you compare Lexipol to other policy providers, Lexipol is the only one that has policy that has been vetted by other chiefs, industry experts and lawyers. All you have to do is tailor the policies to your agency’s needs.”

Jim Franklin, Executive Director
Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, MN

"Lexipol is, indeed, ahead of the curve with their unique risk management solutions in law enforcement. The Minnesota Sheriffs' Association has been eagerly anticipating the release of the Lexipol Custody Manual. Lexipol meets the needs of law enforcement and custodial agencies by recognizing the emerging challenges facing our agencies, and providing comprehensive tools and resources to reduce liability and risk in a professional and highly efficient manner. The Minnesota Sheriffs' Association is proud of its continued partnership with Lexipol."

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