IAFC Bullying and Harassment Video: More to the story

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

In last week’s post, Bullying and Harassment in the Fire Service: A Video Misses the Mark, I took the IAFC “to task” for

Bullying is the abuse of the difference in power
what I saw as a “glossing over” of a very important issue in the fire service today. I always expect some negative feedback to such an article (which amazingly has not happened), but one response absolutely “floored” me.

The next day, I received the following e-mail message from Chief I. David Daniels, IAFC Director at Large, and member of the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section (SHS):


Regarding your article, Bullying and Harassment in the Fire Service: A Video Misses the Mark, your writings are (as usual) thought provoking.  As the chair of the task group and principle planner of the video, I thought I’d provide a little feedback.

While the essence of your suggestions is consistent with where we want to go in Phase II, I did find the following probably the most interesting:

“The video seeks to change the behavior of firefighters and officers by appealing to their “better angels”, i.e., their sense of right and wrong (Stop bullying and harassing your fellow employees or members because it’s the right thing to do). Experts in the field of behavioral change have consistently shown that such an approach is not successful. People change their behavior because they don’t want to be seen as abnormal.”

This video and the first phase of our efforts was only the beginning of our efforts.  Prior to this effort, there has been little if any substantive conversation at all about this topic.  The overall goal was to raise awareness with those who were most easily persuadable.

We suspected that the video we would get the early converts talking about this topic because they already agree with us in principle.  Phase II is in fact about going deeper.  As a matter of fact, we have submitted a proposal that covers Surviving Bullying in the Firehouse that involves more detailed discussion about what to do about this issue if folks are experiencing it.

We’d be totally open to your thoughts about how to involve the folks you’ve suggested.  I think it would be interesting to get people to speak up given the environment of fear that permeates the industry, however, let’s give it a shot!!

If you would be so inclined, I’d invite you to join our efforts.

See why I was “floored”? I responded back to Chief Daniels and offered my assistance in any capacity he saw fit. After some more exchanges, I decided that my best ability to contribute to this ongoing effort is to stay an independent observer and journalist with the ability to “call ‘em as I see ‘em.”

But the SHS cannot continue this mission—or the many others that it’s pursuing to improve firefighter safety, health, and survival—without the help of qualified and motivated people in the fire service. To that end, the SHS has launched the SHS Staging program.

SHS Staging is an initiative to pre-register, manage, list of SHS volunteers who have agreed to help in responding to all types of needs for the IAFC and SHS. The SHS Staging registration list is our effort to make sure that we keep our list of safety minded professionals current so that the SHS Board can more quickly find and fill needs for specific projects as they occur throughout the year.

So, if you’re currently an IAFC member, here’s a great way to take part in the good works being done by the SHS. And if you’re not a member, perhaps this can serve as your motivation to join up!

Membership in the IAFC is not limited solely to fire chiefs; it has membership categories for all chief officers, company officers, fire departments (those serving less than 10,000 residents), other first-responders (firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs), as well as related industry reps, such as, community officials, educators, etc.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].