During this time of year, I start moving my recurring calendar appointments to ensure they cover the next year. It’s also a useful time for setting priorities for the coming year.
Many fire departments regularly review the schedules of industry meetings and conferences to ensure that everyone has enough information to build their next year’s calendars. In addition, committees and organizations review their members’ meeting attendance to determine their level of industry involvement over the past year and send notices to attend certain meetings or conferences.
This time of year is a good opportunity to determine your involvement in industry meetings and conferences and work on setting priorities. It’s also an opportunity to see what can be removed from your activity calendar to free up your schedule.
Why Setting Priorities for 2023 Is a Necessity
As the world of fire and emergency management services (EMS) continues to evolve, more and more industry organizations have been created. These organizations typically have at least one or more conferences per year. But with all of these meetings and conferences taking place, setting priorities is important.
For instance, my 2022 meeting/conference calendar included these events:
- January – International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) company officers section in-person board meeting
- March – Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association winter symposium and legislative meeting
- April – Congressional Fire Services Institute annual dinner and legislative meetings
- April – Institution of Fire Engineers – USA Branch annual general meeting
- May – Center for Public Safety Excellence accreditation course
- June – IAFC strategic planning session
- June – Institution of Fire Engineers Caribbean and South America Branch conference
- July – Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association annual conference
- August – Fire Rescue International Conference
- September – National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer class
- September – Firehouse Expo
- October – Institution of Fire Engineers International General Assembly Meeting and Fire Conference 2022
- November – Institution of Fire Engineers – USA Branch annual board meeting
- December – IAFC Fire Rescue International Program planning committee meeting
- December – Executive Fire Officer course
In addition to all of these meetings and conferences, I have around six standing monthly meetings. I’m not complaining, however; I enjoy all of these events very much and always network with new people at each event.
However, you can see from my bulleted list that there are a large number of different events that occur in the fire service and EMS. In addition, I do not belong to other existing fire and EMS organizations, or I would be asked to attend even more events!
Determining Your Bandwidth for Attending Any Type of Meeting
A few years ago, I recognized that I had exceeded my bandwidth for meeting attendance and began to streamline my involvement. To accomplish this goal, I looked at the organizations I had been involved with for many years and if my involvement had become stagnant.
Next, I reviewed what industry meetings or conferences would assist me as I progressed through the final years of my time in the fire department versus the organizations I was involved with in my past. Lastly, I checked what meetings and conferences aligned with my current role in the fire department.
As a result of this assessment, I gave up my involvement in the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Team, as well as my participation in the Safety and Health Committee of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association. Departing the FEMA US&R team spared me from approximately 12 monthly meetings as well as three to four day trips. In addition, leaving freed my brain from having to keep up my knowledge of an entire federal system with its own legislation, policies, procedures and politics that involve 28 sub-organizations.
Your Organizational Involvement Should Support Your Professional Development
As I mentioned in my methods for pruning my activities and setting priorities, I focused on what groups, associations, and activities would best support me at my current level in the fire department hierarchy. I am highly fortunate to be involved in these organizations, but they must also support my daily activities. This mindset is only fair to my own community and my fire department, which provide support to me.
I can say that I have found a few instances this year to indicate that forming connections at meetings and conferences benefit our organization. For example, our community learned that a large country music festival would be coming to our town. After learning that this festival was based on a current music festival from a community in South Carolina, I contacted the fire chief of that community’s fire department who I knew through IAFC.
The South Carolina fire chief was able to provide a history of the event, incident action plans (IAPs) and other useful information. As a result, our fire department and other community organizations saved a large amount of time and effort by avoiding the need to re-invent a program that was already working somewhere else.
As we enter 2023, how will you focus on setting priorities? What work will you take on, but more importantly, what activities will you prune from your busy schedule?