Improving Fire Department Morale at the Company Level

This article is part of the “Owning the Job” series here on Read more articles from the “Owning the Job” series here.

Recently, I was giving the task of putting on a presentation for my promotional process. The presentation was 10 minutes long and the topic was “Present 3 ideas to improve morale in the department”. I decided to talk about the following: Positive Reinforcement from Management, Pay for Performance, and Utilizing Social Media more (shocker there). I won’t bore you with an in depth look at my presentation. I focused on issues related to Administration improving morale. I could have split it up, I wasn’t placing blame. The problem was identified already. The solution was not.

What I would like to discuss is the opposite…How do we improve morale at the company level?

How can We Improve Morale from the Ground Up?

Illustration by Paul Combs. “Drawn by Fire” on Facebook

Below is a list of ideas to improve morale. Some might make minor dents in the problem; Others might make a huge difference. Most of these will work in all types of Fire and/or EMS Departments.

If you have read this far in the article, you are interested in improving morale. I wish you the best and I am available for questions. Feel free to offer your own ideas in the comments.


  • Look professional
  • Act professional
  • Be professional
  • Be positive, smile, and laugh often
  • Leave your ego at home


  • Hang out together on duty: Eat together, workout together, train together. Get together before/after morning checks to discuss local news, what everyone did on their day(s) off etc.
  • Hang out together off duty: Have your coworkers over for dinner and include their families. Get together at a local park for a picnic. 
  • Invite another firehouse over for a friendly game of basketball, training, cornhole, or dinner.
  • Be positive: Be nice, be friendly, be a friend. Not everyone has the best days every day at the firehouse…some have to ride the medic unit time to time!
  • Motivate others: Be mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of others.

Company Pride

  • Create a logo or mascot for your firehouse. Get patches, shirts, coins, chips, and/or stickers made. ( for coins and for chips)
  • Build a custom firehouse kitchen table. (examples here)
  • Have Wall Shields make you a custom wall shield for your firehouse. They do kitchen tables too!
  • Clean all of the tools on your rig together. Paint them up in a paint scheme unique to your firehouse.
  • Check out for some other examples.
  • Look and dress professional. Lose the “I fight what you fear” or “Big Johnson” t-shirt and where a uniform shirt with the rest of the crew.
  • Check out “Turning a Fire Station into a Firehouse”
  • Check out my firehouses custom kitchen table here
  • Social Media: Create a Facebook page, twitter account, instagram account, blog, or other social media account for your firehouse and/or fire department. Share information that other firefighters might enjoy as well as the community. Show off your pride, invite the community into your firehouse. Create communication, relationships, and conversation with others. Be seen!
  • Open House: Have an open house annually or each month for your community to come in and see their firehouse!


  • Territory: Put a map up and see how much each person can get. Then go out and drive it. Pay attention to hydrants, long hose lays, building construction, oddities.
  • Equipment: Go over new equipment and old equipment. Get it off the rig and go over it with everyone. You might know something others don’t and vice versa.
  • Tools: Discuss what tools you have and why. Discuss other uses for tools and identify tools you might like to have on your apparatus…then try to acquire them.
  • Apparatus: Quiz each other on what gear is in which compartment on the apparatus. This will bring everyone up to speed on where things are properly placed.
  • Formal Classes: Keep an eye out for available classes in your area and encourage your Brothers and Sisters to attend the class with you.
  • Informal Classes: Identify topics your company wants to learn and refresh on. Then, identify different company members to teach the classes to the company. Follow through and schedule the classes on duty.
  • Critiques: When you get back from the big one, schedule a critique in the firehouse of the incident. Be positive, use constructive critisism when needed, and identify areas that your company needs to train on more often.


  • Wash the rig when it needs it.
  • Clean the dash and vacuum and/or wash out the interior regularly. Fire apparatus can get real dirty real quick. The same with EMS apparatus.
  • Wash out the compartments regularly.
  • Thoroughly check the apparatus each day.
  • Identify issues and make corrections and/or write it up for future maintenance.

Firehouse Integrity

  • Don’t complain about other shifts at shift change. If there is a complaint, take it to your company officer to handle.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Clean as you expect the other crews to clean when you aren’t there.
  • Leave the firehouse and apparatus cleaner than it was the day before.
  • Get a subscription to fire service magazines and leave them around the firehouse for others to read.

Speak up, listen, and understand

  • Speak up for yourself. Make yourself heard when you need to.
  • Listen when others are speaking. Listen to other ideas.
  • Understand what others are saying and why they are saying it.

Health and Fitness

  • Workout together. Change up the workouts to the needs of your company.
  • Eat healthy foods. Cook things that everyone enjoys, but make it healthy.
  • Workout on your days off. Some of the guys in my department get together to ride bikes on our greenway, run 5k races, and workout at the local gym together.
  • Be positive. Understand that not everyone is trying to kill it in the gym. The fact that some are in the gym is a huge improvement for some.

Probably the biggest thing you can do is have a positive attitude…which is also one of the hardest when morale is low.

The ideas below were shared on The Fire Critic’s Facebook Page:

  1. Schedule training at the beginning of the shift when you’re fresh and not burn out. This also sets the tone for the remaining part of the shift… You made being a fireman more important than washing the ambulance… Guys will see that! (Jamie Goodlet)
  2. Sit around and talk more as a crew. This helps build camaraderie. Don’t just talk about anything, again, the focus has to be on firefighting. Call all the guys out of their individual rooms or corners of the station all to one place and let the stories begin. (Jamie Goodlet)
  3. Good, quality, practical training… It has to be practical and fun or nobody is going to want to do it. Invest some time into planning the trainings and make it more of an event than a spontaneous drill. (Jamie Goodlet)
  4. Lead by Example. Even if you’re not the senior Guy or the boss, lead! If something needs to be done do it. If the rigs are dirty clean them. When you are at the Firehouse it is yours. IF YOU CARRY A RUSTY TOOL THEN YOU LOOK LIKE A RUSTY TOOL! (Michael Kiernan)
  5. Stick together. Be the epitome of camaraderie – gather (regularly) together – the bigger the group the better – “regular” night at a local restaurant, bar-b-q’s – rotate to each others house, etc. “BE” without admin. (Kevin Wilkes)
  6. Water Battles – Make time to have fun when possible. (Jan Sudmersen)
  7. Integrity. Positive attitude. Trust. Don’t get caught up in the gossip/ politics. Do your job, know your job.
  8. Take some pride and ownership. Be the person that’s always wanting to train and learn, take pride in even the boring work (cleaning toilets). Be the role model of a good firefighter. That is infectious it can even spread up the ranks. Take pride in your company, make up a slogan, have t shirts and patches made… (Eric Bollar)
  9. Don’t fall into the “negativity” trap. All it takes is one positive person to bring everybody up (Craig Patti)
  10. Have a small cook out at the station invite the members and there families. (Buddy Jackson)
  11. Be your ‘brothers’ keeper. Constant positive outlook and let them know you see their strong work and efforts. Amazing how far a simple ‘attaboy’ carries morale. Amazing that so many upper management types never seen to get that. (Brodie Verworn)
  12. Remain positive – attitude is contagious. One person with a positive attitude can change an entire company. A positive company can change an entire battalion. A positive battalion can change an entire shift. A positive shift can change an entire department. That’s all it takes. (Tom Stanton)
  13. Little contests in house (engine 1 v engine 2) doing simple skills (hose rolling, knots, push-ups, ladder drills, etc…) so that you are getting training but also getting some bounding and brotherhood from the contests. (RJ RescueHumor)
  14. Individual Company Pride! (Bryan Gallup)
  15. Cookouts involving the guys at the house and family maybe even the neighbourhood (Alex Johnson)
  16. Always be positive and supportive of new members and I courage and if needed push them along to get classes. Show respect to all members weather that be junior firefighters or the oldest fire police member. Don’t get involved in the “click” bull shit and talk smack about other members behind their backs. If a member has a screw up on a scene don’t scream and yell at them pull them aside later and talk through what happened and how it could be done differently, because the screaming and telling drives members away. (Garrett Yager)
  17. Find better training and partner up people that dont like each other and make them work through it. Everyone has to understand they are on the same team at the end of the day. (Brian Jackson)
  18. Eat meals together. Train together. Pride and ownership. (Jeff Hardy Jr.)
  19. A little fire service/department or company history goes along way for some good morale. Guys feel good to know they’re part of something that has been much greater than themselves for a long time in our nation. (Ty Damron)
  20. Upbeat, jumping in to help And share, encourage, ask questions and try to improve myself which hopefully will improve others. Lead by example. (Irene Silknetter Fitzkee)
  21. Train compete and involve ur family outside firehouse w firehouse family. (Jaymie Robles)
  22. Leaders stand next to the company and show them how to do it or encourage the guy doing the job. (William Gates)
  23. Be supportive both in the station and in the community. Care about the people on your team, not just as team members, but as human beings. LISTEN…sometime people just need to talk. (Stacey Nicholas)
  24. Train! Learning new techniques or reinforcing old ones always motivates people! (Jamie Burgess)
  25. Positive reinforcement and focus on positive compliments. (TJ Vandermark)