Halfway fire department sets ethics code


HALFWAY - Halfway Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Kroboth has high expectations for his paid and volunteer rescue personnel and wants the public to know that.

He and fellow firefighter and paramedic Kevin Lewis recently penned a code of ethics for the department.

"The basic philosophy is: Members have a responsibility for acting in an ethical manner, demonstrating high standards of integrity, honesty and courage," said Kroboth, 37.

The department's code of ethics will be one of the first such documents to be set down in writing by a fire department in Washington County. The Hancock Fire Department is working on its code, according to Lt. Robert Barnhart.

Most departments in Washington County have informal, but similar goals for their crews, fire officials said.

"We think how we represent ourselves to the county is important," said Lewis.

He said the code provides the department with "checks and balances."

One of the busiest fire departments in the county, Halfway responded to 2,000 fire and emergency service calls last year, said Kroboth.


Halfway employees 16 professional firefighters, some of whom are cross-trained as paramedics, he said. They also have 50 volunteers.

To accommodate the growing department, Halfway recently built a $1.7 million fire hall. Kroboth said some people called the building too elaborate.

"The fire service is sometimes perceived as wasteful of funds. We want to do whatever we can to build the public's confidence and trust," he said.

Everyone involved in the department will have to comply with the code of ethics or face punishment ranging from a verbal reprimand to termination, said Kroboth.

Lewis and Kroboth wrote the document as part of a training course offered through the University of Maryland.

The document lists seven requirements for fire department members.

They are:

* Perform their duties in a cost-effective manner and meet needs of the public.

* Demonstrate honesty and ethical behavior when conducting company business.

* Avoid personal conflicts with official duties.

* Use company resources properly.

* Act professionally when representing the company.

* Treat the public fairly.

* Avoid behavior that goes against company bylaws.

The Halfway Fire Department's executive committee unanimously approved the code on April 5. It will be posted inside the department.

Kroboth said that although he believes most members of Halfway do conduct themselves appropriately he wanted to put their goals down on paper.

"We thought it would be a good idea to prepare our own. It shows we are a cutting edge and progressive department," he said.

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