Perspectives on Emergency Management Law
Interview with Mr. John Murphy
I recently had an enlightening opportunity to interview Mr. John Murphy and get his thoughts on the field of Emergency Management Law and how legal aspects of the Fire Service intersect with it. As we all know, many (though not all) Emergency Management Departments and Offices can be found within the Fire Department. This relationship gives the two fields—Emergency Management Law and Fire Service Law—more similarities and relational issues than you might initially think. The major thing to consider is that sometimes Emergency and Disaster Management goes well beyond just making plans and getting grants. It involves people—and the relationships built with them. If those relationships break down, no matter how good the plan is it will never get implemented the way you want it
Part 1: Leadership Makes the Difference
Lets face it we’ve all had those bosses that we just don’t like. Sometimes they can be just down right toxic. Here’s some of the ideas John shared that apply whether you stack on a wall to clear a building or make entry on a structure fire.
“Who cares if they like me, I get results”
Many times, management issues stem from the fact that manager lacked the interpersonal skills to resolve the issue and provide leadership on the subject. Other times, the manager has the interpersonal skills but just wanted to take the easy way out of a personnel issue. As Public Safety Professionals, we are in the “people business”. John stated that he has seen many personnel management issues spiral out of control and end up in litigation. Many of these lawsuits involve Title 7 U.S.C. (Anti-Discrimination) and due process during hiring or firing with the department.
“So what do can be done about it?”
The way managers interact with subordinates and peers can make a huge difference. Just because the manager gets results, doesn’t automatically mean they are the perfect person to be in charge. In today’s day and age, supervisors and managers absolutely must be able to deal with people in order to avoid litigation. Sometimes the issue is that the supervisor or manager just “didn’t know” what they should have done. John stated that departments could prevent issues in a couple of different ways.
(1) Selection of Managers. One way departments can prevent issues is by ensuring the supervisors and managers within the department already possess appropriate interpersonal skills. The problem with this situation is that not everyone naturally possesses interpersonal skills.
(2) Interpersonal Skills Training. The second option is to implement a combination mentorship and training program to help supervisors and managers develop interpersonal skills to lead in the department. Though this is the harder option to implement, it is the most effective because it builds the capacity of the department to internally develop their supervisors and managers over time. This type of training doesn’t need to be done through “death-by-power point” like we’ve all seen before, but simply with a “Leadership Development Plan”. Any way its built, the plan should focus on providing supervisors and mangers with the interpersonal skills and knowledge necessary to lead their team at the various echelon.
Impact on Emergency Management
Leadership is a universal issue that needs serious consideration even within the Emergency Management field. Though the majority of Emergency Management Offices are one or two people, others can be very large. However a common thread is that Emergency Management has a lot to do with relationships. Having the interpersonal skills to internally resolve conflicts can also help resolve issues and conflicts on a larger scale between different agencies. The ability to resolve these conflicts help to bring stakeholders to the table during planning, response, and recovery to an emergency.
Visit John’s Website by clicking here.
Next Week’s title is “Talk to the Lawyer Before Something Bad Happens” and is part 2 of the 3 part interview.