Grand Junction, Colorado
Captain; Los Angeles County Fire Dept.
Independent Public Safety Professional
"Trust your people to do what you've trained them to do ..."
Why they're a Crisis Leader:
Rory was one of my earliest mentors when I became involved in Urban Search and Rescue (USAR). He helped shape my understanding of disasters and how to respond to them effectively.
As the former chairperson of FEMA's prestigious Search Working Group Rory led many of the advances in search and rescue that helped fuel our future successes. His fingerprints are on almost every successful federal search and rescue policy and procedure used today.
Although quiet and humble, Rory has held a leadership role in nearly every federal disaster in the United States in the last 25 years.
As for leadership during a crisis, he's definitely 'been there and done that.' Rory is a trusted ally and a dear friend, and it's an honor to capture his story.
#1 "What is a Crisis Leader?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What is a Crisis Leader?"
As Emergency Responders, if you look in the public's eye, everything is a crisis to the general public.
And you never know when the situation is gonna, what you think is a simple situation is gonna turn, and present a different situation when you arrive or in the middle of it. So you have to be flexible to manage that incident because how that incident starts is going to dictate how that incident continues.
If it starts bad, it's not managed well, the incident can turn really bad.
But if it's managed well, it will have a better outcome. Both for the team and also for our customers. And it doesn't matter how big the crisis is.
I don't look, for me, I never looked at the size of the crisis, I always looked at what was being presented to me, and trying to manage that.
That particular response or incident, whether it be somebody with a broken leg, or a major incident where you're doing large search operation, or a large brush fire.
#2 "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
Boy, looking back, I'm looking back 33 years of response to incidents.
Taking a large incident, we managed in Houston after Hurricane Ike, we helped manage search operations, and getting everybody on the same page as far as terminology and operations.
And I thought it was a big step forward after Katrina.
And the process that we worked on during that, prior to that time, with search marking, search definitions, and then the process, the tactical process.
But seeing that all come together and making sure everybody was on the same page, to me that was one of the, to me, a milestone for search operations in large area or wide area searches.
And so being in the leadership role of that and seeing it come to fruition, I thought was pretty substantial.
And that it has really paved the way for future operations that have procured over the past 10 years.
#3 "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
Okay, what you know now that you wish you knew then.
Oh boy, I think probably, probably my early years in the fire service. I wish there would have been more training and leadership offered throughout the department.
Our department, for a large department, had a very small training staff. And it was hard to find those leadership type classes.
Of course, after the years you kinda pick up on things, and you're around different leaders, and you learn their leadership style.
I wish I would have known that when I was younger. It comes back to trusting your people.
The training that you do, and trusting your people to do what you've trained them to do.
I think for me that, I mean we did our training, and the one thing I always do is I trusted my people to do what they were trained to do.
But on another portion of that is the additional leadership training.
Now from what I understand, the department I was with, which was Los Angeles County Fire Department, they're doing more leadership training.
That's a good thing.
#4 "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
What advice would you give someone who wants to prove their crisis leadership.
In the past, of course, after I retired, I read some books about leadership that were written by some retired military. And their process of how they established their mission objectives and how they proceed in doing a mission. And I think those books are out there and Pete, as a leader I think you need to look at those and read 'em.
And if you see any courses, or just a one day class on leadership for emergency responders, or even just a general leadership class. I think it would be, behoove someone who was coming up to take that or those particular classes.
And if you see somebody that you admire or you've worked with and you like their leadership style, start asking questions. Go to them and ask them.
It basically kind of interviewing them to find out their leadership style and where they wanna learn from it.
I know we have a number of people that are as emergency responders who have been in the military. The military offers a lot of leadership courses. Those people would obviously had those leadership courses, but for the general public, get out there and you're gonna have to beat the bushes a little bit, but those courses are out there.
#5 "Who is a Crisis Leader that influenced your career?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "Who is a crisis leader that influenced your career?"
Who's a crisis leader that influenced your career?
I was a captain at a battalion headquarters, and I worked for a battalion chief.
One of my first fires with him is, he says you got this kid, I'm here to support you, but handle it. And I'm going, oh boy.
And there was a lot of things that he did like that. And basically, he was mentoring me by doing that, and to promote.
I never promoted above captain, but he was great in doing that by, if you get to a point where you can't handle it, let me know, elsewise handle it.
And I always appreciated that.
It really kind of led me, and basically, he's saying, yes I trust you on handling it, and I trust my people.
That was to me, that was always a big influence in trusting my people in doing their jobs. I always appreciated Bob for doing that.