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Officer Accountability in the Volunteer Fire Service


Your success as an organization largely depends upon your officers. So how do you hold your officers accountable to do what you have asked them to do? A lack of accountability of the officers often sends a message through an organization that lower standards are okay. You will likely see some of these signs.

● Low officer/member morale

● Less officer engagement

● Overall division not meeting goals/responsibilities

● Unclear priorities across officer group

● Continual delays in projects

● Complacency among all officers

It does not need to be this way.

The first step in creating accountability is to create job descriptions. What each specific officer in the organization is responsible for is written and documented. Job descriptions instantaneously create accountability.

The best method to build job descriptions in the volunteer service is to first list out every task and responsibility in your organization. You can start at the President or Chief and work your way down through the organization. Once all tasks and responsibilities are listed, begin to group them into functional categories. These can include Vice President, Treasurer, Training, Engineer, and the like. As an example, conducting weekly drills and maintaining member-training records can be grouped under ‘Training Officer’. Maintaining apparatus repair records and annual apparatus DOT inspections are grouped under ‘Engineer’. You get the idea.

It is time to discuss the big pitfall here. Never consider who your officers are when doing this exercise. Build your groupings by what needs to be accomplished, not who is going to accomplish them. You are building a standard that should last the test of time, not the person holding office this time around. In the future, you want to be able to give out the Officer Job Descriptions and say, “this is the job, can you do it?”

Once you have the Job Descriptions built, meet with each officer, and review their Job Description with them. Assure they fully understand what is expected of them. Have them sign it and place the signed copy in their file. You have now created a framework for accountability.

With the Job Descriptions in place, monitor each officer’s performance against their Job Description. Create a level playing field where every officer is held accountable.

You will most likely have an officer or two who aren’t performing their prescribed job as needed. When one officer doesn't perform or isn’t accountable, it creates problems at multiple levels. You need to act swiftly and with purpose. In these cases, have the conversation.

Focus on the performance, not the officer. Give the officer a chance to explain. However, make it clear of the actions that need to take place. Outline a written improvement program. Sounds like some more work but if it produces results then it was worth every minute.

When outlining improvements keep them specific, attainable, time-defined, and measurable. These points are critical and lead to further accountability.

Need help developing job descriptions or evaluating officer standards? Email us today,


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