What Does Integrity Mean to You?

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Deputy Chief (Ret.) Ken Riddle who served 28+ years with the Las Vegas (Nev.) Department of Fire and Rescue. Ken is also the Executive Director of the Nevada Fire Chiefs Association. He’s currently the Senior Fire & EMS Advisor for the Public Consulting Group.

A couple of days ago, I received a message via LinkedIn from my fire service colleague, Ken Riddle, asking me to participate in the swearing-in ceremony for the personnel staffing the newly formed Placentia (Calif.) Fire Department.

Now I live just west of Charleston, West Virginia so at first I’m thinking “No way I can help Ken out.” But Ken eradicated that thought from my mind when he said,

A welcome congratulations type video and encouraging message. These guys have been moving forward with all kinds of roadblocks…I was able to get Dr. [Denis] Onieal, Dennis Rubin, John Sinclair and Bobby Halton to do a video as well.

Now how can I turn the guy down when he’s just “mentioned” me in the same breath as those guys? Among some of my most prominent mentors and role models! So I said yes!

I only had 30 seconds to work with (And I exceeded that by 14 seconds!) but after looking over my text I decided that I’d just written my next blog. So, here it is–with some extras because I’m not “on the clock!”

Good day to you all!

My name is Robert Avsec and I was honored to serve alongside the women and men of the Chesterfield County Fire and EMS Department for 26 years before retiring is a Battalion Chief in December 2007. Since then I’ve been fortunate to have made a second career as a freelance writer for online fire service websites.

I’m humbled and honored to have been asked to say a few words today on your swearing in ceremony as members of the newly formed Placentia Fire Department.

My word for you today is INTEGRITY. One popular definition for integrity is “Doing the right thing even when nobody’s watching.” Certainly an apt description for a job such as a firefighter where we enter people’s lives and homes as perfect strangers and they trust us. They trust it will do the right thing.

But over the course of my career (both of them) I’ve embraced this definition of integrity “Keeping your promises.” As in when you get married you promise many things (love, honor, cherish, etc.) and above all to be faithful to your spouse.

As when you become a parent, you promise—maybe not aloud or in public like when you get married—to love and provide for your children and help them grow up to be responsible and successful and happy adults.

Today you’re making a very public promise as you take your oath of office in front of family and friends, and just like that parental oath, there are many unwritten or unspoken promises that you’re making today. Here are just a few:

I promise to treat others as they wish to be treated (The Platinum Rule). Forget the “Golden Rule,” you know, “Do unto others and you would have them do unto you.” It’s not about you.

What’s your compass?

Yep, that’s it. If you strive to always treat others as they wish to be treated, I’m betting you’ll never:

  • Be charged with workplace harassment or sexual harassment of a sister firefighter.
  • Post something offensive on social media that brings unwanted attention or criticism to your Department and your fellow firefighters and, most importantly, your family and community.
  • Get yourself or others injured (or killed) because you failed to do your job safely, effectively, and efficiently because you chose not to follow your department’s SOGs.

Shortlist? Yes, but it gives you plenty of room to determine what promises you need to keep as you embark on this new chapter in your life.

Best wishes to all of you for continued success and good health for many years to come.

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, rpa1157@gmail.com.