Kingsport Fire Department Builds Pride with Inaugural Recognition Ceremony

After months of planning and some opposition, the Kingsport Fire Department held it’s First Annual Employee Recognition Ceremony. The event was held at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education auditorium in Downtown Kingsport. The opposition wasn’t that members were against such ceremony, but only that they had never held a ceremony recognizing the members for the tasks that they complete as part of their job before. You often hear firefighters say, “I was just doing my job.” While this is true, Rick Lasky, author of Pride and Ownership, talks about how if we do not recognize our own…no one else will. His book provided much-needed guidance for the planning of our ceremony.

ceremony (1)The event was a private event that was held for the members of the Department, their families, retirees, and members of the Board of Mayor and Alderman. It was originally scheduled for a date in February, but due to a snow storm that impacted the area, it had to be rescheduled. The members were encouraged to wear their Class A uniforms, and it was advertised as a positive event for our employees and their families. The evening consisted of the presentation of colors by the Kingsport Fire Department Honor Guard, a welcoming message by the Fire Chief, a report of the 2013 accomplishments by the Assistant Fire Chief, recognition of employees that received promotions during 2013, and awards/recognition for employees that had responded to incidents throughout the year. While we all climb on the truck to respond to incidents on a daily basis, the individuals that were working and responded to major incidents during their shifts received an extra “pat on the back” with this recognition.

The Employee Recognition Committee, a committee composed of five members of the Department, oversees the awards program that has recently been implemented. While it is still in the building phase, there were several awards that were issued on Friday night. The committee planned and organized the event for our members to attend.

The Chief’s Award consists of a Letter of Commendation from the Chief of the Department, a Chief’s Award Challenge Coin, and the recipient’s name is placed on a plaque that is on display at Fire Station 1. The award is given to line personnel that placed the well-being of others before themselves. Several of the events in the past have consisted of members going above and beyond on the fire scene or at accident scenes. The Fire Marshal’s Office personnel are also eligible for the award by conducting a thorough investigation that leads to a conviction. The process can be very extensive, long, and drawn out such as one of the awards that was given out on Friday night after four years through the court systems.

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A Letter of Recognition can also be awarded by the shift commander, The Deputy Chief, for individuals or engine companies that respond to a catastrophic incident or display teamwork on-scene an incident that deserves recognition. Several individuals also received recognition for events that took place during 2013 on Friday. These events included several structure fires and the 2013 Flood that consisted of a mass number of incidents being answered in a short period of time. Deputy Chief Jim Everhart explained the incident by saying, “Every department vehicle that had wheels was rolling to answer the calls that were coming in.”

The promotion process that KFD uses is a very challenging process. The individuals must complete written and practical tests, as well as an oral review board. After months of preparation, the candidates are placed on a list based on their final test scores. The list is then used to determine the next individual to be promoted as a position becomes available. Prior to the ceremony, the promotions have taken place on-shift at the fire station in front of the shift personnel. On Friday night, the individuals that promoted during 2013 received a certificate of promotion, and a formal badge pinning was made by the Fire Chief. This is hopefully a new standard and tradition that will be carried out into the future.

ceremony (2)The events inaugural guest speaker was no stranger to the brothers and sisters of the KFD. Donald Coleman, the Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs for Northeast State Community College, has been involved with area emergency services for over 30 years. He has played a key role in bringing the Paramedic training to our Department starting in 1988 while working alongside with KFD personnel, and is considered a friend to many of us. Coleman did an excellent job of speaking about why he entered the field, provided some insight about why we do what we do, and also outlined some key points in the history of the Department. In closing, he spoke of how a positive attitude can have a great effect on our career as well as those members of the community that are in need of our assistance.

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The event was a great success and hopefully the start of another great tradition for the KFD.  Our members never seek recognition for the job that we all love doing, but there are certain times that it is necessary. As the members were asked to come to the stage or stand, you could see the pride spread over their families faces as they climbed out of their seat. I often speak of the PRIDE that members should have in their Department and the men and women they work with. It was very apparent that the members were PROUD of a job well done by all. I would like to thank everyone that took time out of their busy schedule to attend, and hope that those members who were unable will be able to mark their calendar next year to celebrate those accomplishments for 2014.