By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Making a New Year’s resolution is one thing. Remaining resolute and seeing them through is quite another reminds Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna. It’s important to make them realistic and obtainable.

Every January we start a new recruit fire academy. The first order of business 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 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!”

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” —Albert Einstein

Integrity Agreements are certainly a useful tool for integrating new firefighters into the fold, instilling in them department values while setting them up for success. But they are not just for rookies! Why not make a good start in 2024 by developing your personal Integrity Agreement?

Here are a few easy ideas to get you started and will be of value throughout the year:

Respect Yourself! Respect for yourself first, and then respect for others. If you do not respect yourself, you certainly won’t respect others.

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

Here comes the Judge! Do not judge. There is an old saying, “When you spot it, you got it.” What you dislike in others is often something you do not like inside yourself. Give grace and learn a little patience for both you and others.

Gossip is for Insecure People! Do not 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.

Own Your Mistakes! 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. Do not wait too long or you risk creating 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 to all of us, regardless of the job or the position you hold or better yet, the amount of time you have on the job. Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.

Happy New Year!