The Kitchen Table Debrief – MAYDAY! The Goodness Spec
2. We assign the wrong people to write them
Who should write the SOPs? People who, first and foremost, know the process to be documented and the appropriate guidelines that apply. Second in importance are people who know the intention of the SOP.
The person writing the SOP needs to know the difference between documenting technical skills (protocols) and guidelines (SOPs).
An example would be regarding the safe backing of apparatus into a Firehouse bay. The SOP would outline the need for “traffic spotters” and “backers”, and their role, but a separate protocol should explain parking skills and appropriate hand signals for the spotters and backers.
Someone not familiar with the safety initiatives or guidelines that apply to this activity, or how to perform the activity, clearly should not be the one assigned to write the guideline.
3. We allow our SOPs to become outdated
The Fire Service is dynamic. Although the guidelines may be accurate at the time they are written, as time passes and the processes they describe begin to change and evolve, the documents fall behind until they no longer accurately apply to what we do. Protocols need to be updated more often as techniques change, but these protocol changes often lead to required changes to the guidelines including safety, or communications, etc.
Some SOPs need to be “refreshed” and again made current. This is why, in part, the NFPA has constantly functioning technical evaluation and review committees keeping the standards that apply to the Fire Service current and accurate. They realize the need to keep the standards current, and we should follow their “documentation maintenance” lead.
4. We adopt the “not invented here” (NIH) philosophy
OK, I threw out the idea of one set of common SOPs, but then I thought: “What if we started with a common set of SOPs for MAYDAYs and the establishment of RIT/FAST teams!? Simple, right?
You would have thought that pulling several companies together and ask them to come up with common procedures for MAYDAYs and FAST/RIT procedures would have been welcomed. Especially if you chose companies who are used to providing mutual aid for each other. This will not always be the case.
Unfortunately, even in this day and age, we in the Fire Service suffer from the “Not Invented Here” (NIH) syndrome. Clearly, I cannot speak in absolutes. I am sure there are departments out there who are doing things right (departments like Phoenix, AZ come to mind) but let’s do a reality check: Far more Fire Departments are fiefdoms than are openly cooperating and sharing information. What’s worse is that many of these same departments do “talk the talk” of cooperation, but do not, in fact, “walk the talk”, and do little to facilitate that cooperation. In other words, they talk about cooperation, but do not actually cooperate.