RescueDigest GOTW: Pick a Policy (Fix One)

By focusing on a particular goal each week and providing some resources to get you started, RescueDigest is here to help make your world a little bit easier and to help you help others. Let’s Pick-a-Policy (or Protocol)!

As Emergency Responders a great deal of what we do is governed by and relies on policies and protocols. So occasionaly our Goal of the Week (#GOTW) will fall into the Pick-a-Policy (or Protocol) category and deal specifically with how we can make our jobs better by taking small steps to either improve the policies themselves or at least the way that we interact with them.

Resume Writing

Yes, you can write it on your iPad. That pen and paper is just a metaphor.

Some agencies have excellent policies and protocols, while others read like they were typed up by particularly isolated monkeys who happened to, for unspeakable reasons, really hate you and the job that you do. However they look right now, we’re going to work on making things better.

Rather than attempt to provide a general plan to work for every single emergency responder, these Goals of the Week (#GOTW) are meant to be the kind of reminders that make you say “Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to get to that!

As with all of our #GOTW reminders, we’re going to be trying these right along with you!

For this week’s Goal of the Week, here are some resources to help you take a step (or two or four) towards IMPROVING your agencies’ policies and protocols.

Your Goal of the Week (#GOTW) is to…

Pick-a-Policy (or protocol) that’s in need of improvement and update or or overhaul it.

While there’s no way to know exactly what you want to do with your policies and protocols, short of you holding them up to your webcam for us to read (and we’ve learned our lesson about looking at other people’s web cams, thank you ChatRoullette) we can give you some advice on getting started.

These can best be summarized in the three phases of Identify, Investigate, and Improve.


  1. Identify a policy or protocol that does not contribute to the assistance of or guidance to responders in the performance of duties.
  2. Identify the original intention of the policy.
  3. Identify (if possible) who wrote the policy in the first place.
  4. Identify the procedure, method, individual or committee (if there is one currently in place) through which this policy can be updated.  As a helpful hint, we almost always refer to “revising” policies and protocols as this gets people’s hackles up much less than saying that their policies need to be “brought up to date”, “rewritten” or “burned on a pyre for the good of the people”.
  5. Identify how a change in this policy / protocol will need to be communicated.


  1. Investigate the current “field practice” of the issue that this policy addresses. In other words, how is it REALLY done on the street right now?
  2. Investigate local and regional policies and practice. Are they better (no need to reinvent the wheel)? Are they worse (no need to make someone else’s mistakes)? Are they just different (is there value in all of us being on the same page here)?
  3. Investigate what the research and / or the experts say.
  4. Investigate the “Best Practices” for this policy or protocol.
  5. Identify costs or savings associated with your proposed change.


  1. You’re in the home stretch. Here’s where you actually sit down with your notepad, iPad, launch pad, bachelor pad, elbow pad. Wait. Scratch those last three. Anyway, here’s where you write up your proposed “revision”.
  2. Once you’ve written your new policy you’ll need to Submit and Support. Submit the revision in accordance with whatever procedure is required for your agency. Support it with the information that you’ve compiled and your dogged determination in seeing this change come true.
  3. This is part where we say “The rest is up to you.” Going through this phase can be difficult, but it will always be made much easier if you’ve done a good job with the Identify and Investigate phases first.

Doing all of this work can be time-consuming, frustrating and generally appreciation-less (a magical word that should be familiar to any Emergency Responder as it often describes our profession). You know that it is much easier to just complain about what you don’t like and how much better things would be if you “ran the zoo”, but if you’re reading RescueDigest, you’re the kind of person for whom that just isn’t good enough. You make the world a better place through your work. Now you’re making your WORK a better place too. Good luck, and we’ll see you next week!

What success (or problems) have YOU had updating your local policies and protocols? Let us know below:

About romduck

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder, author, and educator with more than thirty years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, hospital healthcare systems, and private emergency medical services. Rom is a career fire captain and paramedic EMS Coordinator for the Ridgefield (CT) Fire Department and director of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. Rom holds a master’s degree in public administration, is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program, and is the recipient of the NAEMT Presidential Award, American Red Cross Hero Award, Sepsis Alliance Sepsis Hero Award, and the EMS 10 Innovators Award. Rom is the author of "Duckworth on Education," as well as chapters in more than a dozen EMS, fire, rescue, and medical textbooks and over 100 published articles in fire and EMS magazines. A member of the NAEMT Board of Directors, as well as other national and international advocacy and advisory boards, Rom continues to work for the advancement of emergency services professions. Contact Rom via