By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

The New Year brings more than just champagne and fancy parties — it’s also when we start a new fire recruit academy.

The first order of business for any recruit is to review all academy policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs). Understanding policies, and training on them repeatedly, provides recruits with a sound foundation in safe and consistent operations before learning basic firefighting skills.

In addition to learning policies, our recruits develop “Integrity Agreements.” Integrity Agreements are sort of like policies, but are more personal in nature. The recruits develop them as a team, but they own them as individuals.


Like policies, these agreements hold recruits accountable for actions on and off the training ground. We tell them, “If you don’t live up to the agreements, you have no one to blame but yourself. You own them; they are custom-made by and for you!”

Integrity Agreements are certainly a useful tool for integrating new firefighters into the fold, instilling in them department values and setting them up for success. But they’re not just for rookies! Why not make a good start in 2021 by developing your personal Integrity Agreement? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Have respect. Respect for yourself first, and then respect for others. If you don’t respect yourself, you certainly won’t respect others.

Cultivate a positive attitude. If your attitude is negative, you won’t succeed. Support and help each other. Firefighting is a team effort and so is life. No one can do it alone — no one!

Don’t judge. There’s an old saying, “When you spot it, you got it.” What you dislike in others is often something you don’t like inside yourself. Give grace and learn a little patience for both yourself and others.

Don’t gossip. If you have an issue with someone or something, the only one who can do something about it is yourself and the other person. Go to that person and discuss it with them, not others.

If you make a mess, clean it up! When you spill milk, what do you do? You clean it up! And if you don’t, it gets harder to clean up the longer you wait. The same goes when you make a mess with another person. Clean it up and say I’m sorry. Don’t wait too long or you’ll create permanent damage. Pride jeopardizes even the deepest relationships.

As you see, these are simple, day-to-day agreements. They work for recruit firefighters, but they apply regardless of who you are, the position you hold or the amount of time you have on the job or life.

What are some Integrity Agreements you can make this year?

Make It a Happy New Year!