The/Studio: Introduce yourself. Tell our readers a little bit about who you are!
Ryan: My name is Ryan Christen. I am a Captain with the Ocean City-Wright Fire Control District in NW Florida. I have 16 years in the fire service and also own and operate an online firefighter training site: www.FullyInvolvedFire.com. In addition, I own a media production company and do graphic design and web design. When I’m not working at the department, I am often attending school, finishing my Master’s degree. Between all of that, I have a wife, and a 14 year old daughter. I enjoy fishing and surfing. Although admittedly, I have little time for the last two activities.
The/Studio: What does your organization or business do?
Ryan: The Ocean City-Wright Fire Control District (OCWFCD) is a fully paid-career fire department. We operate three fire stations and provide Advanced Life Support with Paramedics on our trucks. We also operate a Special Operations unit that responds to technical rescue such as Confined Space Rescue, High-Angle Rope Rescue, Haz Mat Response, and Heavy extrication. Our department has a proud history and a dedicated membership. We love our jobs and we love our department. We take a lot of pride in our department and refer to it in the public as, “your fire department!”
The/Studio: That’s wonderful! Sounds like you have a great community Fire Department.What have you learned since starting your organization or business?
Ryan: As I mentioned I am a full time firefighter and own two businesses. Between the three I have learned volumes. But, despite their differences there are several lessons that overlap:
The/Studio: Those are lessons I think everyone should learn. What about your organization or business are you most proud of?
Ryan: With regards to my fire department, it is simple to define what I love, but it is difficult to keep the list short. First, I love being out in the community and helping people. It doesn’t matter if I am pulling someone from a burning home, cutting someone from a car, or just helping an elderly person off the floor – I love my job! It is tremendously rewarding. Second, I am proud of the men and women I work with and their dedication to serving our community. Finally, I love being a part of a team that puts the good of others above themselves: a team that values our overall mission above their individual needs. That in fact is the inspiration for the logo on the patch I designed: “Team Above Self.”
The/Studio: Being a Firefighter is definitely something to be proud of. You all are heroes.What are some of the greatest challenges you face with your organization or business?
Ryan: The Fire Service faces constant challenges. These include funding, public approval, and of course the difficulties of maintaining readiness for all-hazard response. In addition, we face a shifting dynamic as our arena expands to growing threats such as terrorism, radiological emergencies, and pandemics such as the Ebola scare.
The/Studio: That’s very challenging and scary! Where do you see your organization or business in 10 years?
Ryan: In ten years I see growth within our organization. I anticipate us bringing new stations online, and more operational divisions. More importantly, I see internal development of our members. Many firefighters today have college degrees. I myself am finishing my Master’s in Public Administration. Within ten years we will see Bachelor’s degrees becoming the minimum standard. In addition, our department has launched an aggressive customer service model. We have adopted procedures modeled from the business community. I see us continuing this trend and developing a customer needs based response that far exceeds just responding to 911 calls. While we want to be progressive, we also want to keep in mind our heritage and return to a time where the neighborhood firehouse was a part of the community that everyone was proud of. Our department hopes to set the standard in customer service as well as emergency response.
The/Studio: Your community is very lucky to have a Fire Department like OCWFCD. What type of legacy do you want to leave?
Ryan: The legacy I want to leave behind is twofold: First, as represented in the patch, the attitude of “Team Above Self” in all aspects of the industry. Second, I want to continue to expand on the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation effort to reduce the number of Line of Duty Deaths. I want to become a national level instructor that helps create a safer fire service that focuses on science, technology, and training to reduce our fatalities without compromising our ability to enter dangerous environments and perform critical rescues.
The/Studio: That’s a great legacy to leave. What is the story behind the custom product that you produced with The/Studio?
Ryan: Our department is broken into three shifts (A, B, and C Shift). Each shift works 24 hours. I am a member of C-Shift and my team is outstanding. We follow a principle that if one of our companies goes to train, we all do. Regardless of individual plans, we train together to fight together. The patch that I designed was created for C-Shift. Our department has its own patch, but prior to this, there were no individual patches per shift. My team takes so much pride in their work and our shift that I wanted to recognize that. I am incredibly proud of the men on my shift and their selfless commitment to our department and mission. As a result I designed a patch that reflects our attitude. I presented the patch to each member at our Christmas party. I wanted to formalize and commemorate our motto and mentality in a tangible item that the men could proudly display. I am proud of them, and want them to be proud of themselves. The patch they now wear on their arm gives them a sense of pride and identifies them as members of a very special group of professionals.
The/Studio: They must have been so honored to receive these patches. How are you going to use this custom product?
Ryan: Before designing the patch, I approached the Chief of the Department for his approval for our shift to wear the patch. He did not hesitate to approve the design. Now our members can wear the “C-Shift” patch on their jackets, sweatshirts, and their firefighter turnout coats. In any aspect of our uniform, these members will be recognized as C-Shift and will be abundantly clear what we stand for: Team Above Self!
The/Studio: Describe the custom patch and what it means?
Ryan: In describing the patch I must first say what an incredible job The Studio did in producing it. Admittedly, I was a demanding customer. I asked for the patch created with significant detail, in a very short timeframe. Without hesitation, they went to work. I received proofs quickly and delivery was prompt. The final product is beautiful, and exceeds my expectations! The patch features a detailed firefighter wearing an air mask and helmet. Framed by a Maltese cross and then circled by a border with the text: “C-Shift” and “Team Above Self.” The idea of using the firefighter in a mask is to represent that we are faceless and nameless. We all stand for the same principles and goals. We are members of a the same team.
The/Studio: Thank you for your kind words .Do you have any promotions you would like to offer our community?
Ryan: We don’t have any promotions. But we would like to ask everyone to visit us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/ocwfcd. Take a look at our department and let us know how we are doing. Even if you don’t live in our community you can help us shape a better fire department delivering better service. We always strive to improve and are anxious to hear how we can. Of course, I can’t resist an opportunity to slip in a safety message as well. After you finish reading this, do me a favor and go check the battery in your smoke detector. It could save your life.
The/Studio: I am going to go check my battery right away! Do you have any upcoming events that our community members can attend?
Ryan: We don’t have any upcoming events, but there are several national events that most fire department participate in. In October we conduct a fundraiser to raise money for Breast Cancer Research. We encourage everyone to support their local department in these efforts. Together we can help find a cure. Of course, if your local department does not participate, you can always support ours and find info on our Facebook page.
Ryan: I would like to add that my family and I are annual pass holders to Disney. We love it there and it makes my daughter happy. We go a couple of times a year. Near the front of the park is a store that is modeled after a Disney themed firehouse. Inside there are display cases with patches from around the world. This year we went to Disney for Christmas. And, for the first time I brought a patch. I was so proud of the patch, and so pleased with the design I wanted to have it added to the wall at Disney. On Christmas Eve, I presented a patch to the Disney staff to be added to the wall. Next time you visit Disney World, stop by and see if you can find the OCWFCD C-Shift Patch.
Ryan: On a final note, this interview would not be complete if I did not make clear my satisfaction with working with you and your staff. Your company provided top-notch customer service, followed by a beautiful product. I would not hesitate to recommend your company to everyone looking for patch production!
Ryan Christen is the epitome of “Our Customer of the Week”. We were so honored to be able to interview him. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are an inspiration!