Bunker Kilts

Bunker Kilts

Firefighter Kilts

FIRST IN, LAST OUT; by John Salka


I wrote this book report in 2004. It was a make up assignment. It's still good to review.


            John Salka is a twenty-five-year veteran of the FDNY.  He rose from rookie to Battalion Chief.  He is currently with 18th battalion in the Bronx, which consists of 150 firefighters and 30 officers in a 12 hour shift.  His credentials are some what amazing to young firefighters throughout the nation.  He has instructed at the FDNY Fire Academy in several areas including: Probationary Firefighters School, Captains Development Program, Firefighters Professional Development Program and its Battalion Chiefs Command Course.  He is a frequent author of numerous fire magazines world wide, a featured speaker, a dedicated hands-on trainer, and has created model programs to be minored throughout the United States.

            The summary of John Salka’s Book; First In, Last Out is about leadership lessons from the New York Fire Department (FDNY).  It is said that The Fire Department of the City of New York is one of the most effective organizations in the world.  After reading this remarkable book, I would have to agree.  Based on the fact that the organization has a leader like John Salka, it is no wonder why they are said to be the elite!  The foundation of that success lies in what Salka calls the code of leadership.  The foundation is phrased by “First In, Last Out”.  This is described as the senior officer on the team is always the first one into a burning building and the last one to leave.  His or her people know that the officer will not leave their side at any point.  The officer will be sharing the danger and not micro managing.  During the incident and throughout the day there is no tolerance for passing the buck or pointing fingers.  The word team means something and creates a new meaning to me after reading Salka’s wisdom on leadership.

            During the book, Chief Salka shares some of the most riveting stories from his own career and those of his other officers on the front line of the FDNY.  After reading this book I recommended it to my father, he is an investment banker who owns his own corporations. The book is a non-stop page turner and shows us how to motivate our team and how to complete the tasks at hand. 

            The book is broken down into 11 chapters that range from all different kinds of strategies that form the leadership principle.  For example; “Don’t Waste Your Water on Smoke.”  In other words or in the corporation business sense it can be described as, “How do you get your people to focus on the things that matter”.  Another example would be; “The Fire You Beat Today Is Not the One You’ll Face Tomorrow.”  In the business world it would be said like, “How do you make uncertainty and flux work to your advantage.”

            John Salka describes three main points from the leadership perspective.  These all happen while your firefighters are running into burning buildings or just tranquil at the firehouse.  The first leadership principle lies in trusting your people and allowing them to do what they are good at, in a way that best suits them.  FDNY focus on results over methods “You can’t beat out a fire with a hook”, this is referring to all aspects of the job.  The second leadership principle is called “Following the Smoke”.  This is up to the officers, to gather information and feedback from diverse sources in order to define the problem at hand.  So follow the smoke or problem until it is finally uncovered and corrected.  The third leadership style is “You’ve got the nozzle”, create leadership.  FDNY understands you can not order people to be leaders.  It is not a quality that is available on demand and it will not happen by itself, it must be what the FDNY organization does to promote such actions.

            There are many other concepts in this book that are worth looking into.  When they are all combined they have a serious impact on any organization.  If you create more leaders with the actions taken from reading this book you may take the company or even the department to new heights.  John Salka thinks you may even have people follow you anywhere, even into a burning building. 

            One of John Salka’s most recent accomplishments was to create a live training program on computers.  He has succeeded and it is aimed at delivering the latest tactics, innovations and training education for first responders worldwide.  





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