2010 April: A Pizza My Mind

I’m a volunteer firefighter. My department consists of 28 men and two women. We make around 150 runs a year. We’re on duty 24/7/365 through central dispatch via a belt pager. I’ve done this a long time, and my experience has taught me that there is no typical run. Each call varies between structure, aircraft, industrial, wildfire, vehicle and hazmat incidents. We are also highly effective in extricating victims from vehicle crashes and RV accidents in the forest and waterways. We are the only department in our county that has a certified underwater dive/rescue squad. We protect 44 miles of Lake Huron shoreline, dozens of lakes and 50 miles of the AuSable River. Over half of our members are EMT’s.

Every department in the country is rated by ISO. This agency assigns an annual numeric grade based on insurance loss ratios, response times, training, and equipment inspections. We have the highest rating possible Well for a department of our size and scope. This reflects on how much premium is charged by insurance companies. We consistently outperform full-time major metropolitan departments.

How can this be? I believe it comes down to dedication and service mentality. We put community above personal agendas.

As such, together we form a well oiled machine. When we arrive on scene, we click. We have a preset command and control protocol and size up and attack the most pressing challenge within seconds. We have a training meeting every Thursday at 7 p.m. and conduct special training on weekends.

Recently we had an ice-dive day where we used a chainsaw to cut a triangle of ice out of the water. We used the hole to insert divers, who swam in the water below ice to search for and rescue victims and property. As you can imagine, in this type of exercise there isn’t any margin for error. It’s high-risk and requires a total team effort to pull it off.

The moral to this story? I’d like to express to you this month that training your staff on how to prepare for out-of-the-box scenarios is priceless. Whether it’s a particularly irate customer or a large catering order gone wrong, things won’t always be smooth. When a problem arises, your staff should be prepared to handle it. Begin by thinking about the number of things that can go wrong in your operation, the points where a failure is most likely to occur. Then address them with your staff and teach them how to handle each respective situation should a meltdown occur in your absence. ?

Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today and leads seminars on operational topics for the family of Pizza Expo tradeshows.