Challenges of Operations Chiefs

Published: 10/19/2011
Author: The International Association of Fire Chiefs

By Andrew J. Vita, Operations Chief, City of Fairfax (VA) Fire Department


This summer I celebrated the mid-point of my fire service career and a promotion to Operations Chief with the City of Fairfax Fire Department. As I took a moment to reflect, I remembered attending a retirement party for one of my department’s founding fathers and hearing him speak about the many challenges he faced during his career. Sitting there I reflected on the challenges I currently face and what’s to come during my tenure as Operations Chief.

Currently, my greatest challenge as an operations chief is how to successfully explore, evaluate, and make available technology to enhance my first responders’ abilities to provide safer and more efficient service to the community. A recent example is when my department began researching options to replace our aging street maps. The easiest solution would have been to buy the same tablet, but this was an opportunity for us to see what else was out there and if programs existed that displayed more than just static PDF drawings.

We chose to equip each of our emergency apparatus with a 3G enabled iPad, capable of much more than PDF drawings and only limited by our imagination. However, in order to make this dream a reality I committed a lot of time and energy to researching our options. I still had to handle day-to-day operations all while sifting through the mountains of information being provided via the internet, employee feedback, and departmental recommendations. It was an arduous process.

This is why I am excited about the launch of the International Association of Fire Chiefs new resource, OpsNetlink. OpsNetlink will provide operations chiefs with access to a dynamic online networking community, expanded opportunities to access critical information and a secure way to share ideas. A dossier of articles on operational issues and best practices will be compiled and sent weekly. These dossiers cut through the clutter and provide us with information in a usable format that we can review at our leisure and implement as needed. I think great things will come now that ops chiefs have the ability to connect with peers and share new approaches to challenges, like the one above. To learn more and subscribe, visit

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