How to Prevent and Address Firehouse Theft

Unfortunately, all firefighting operations have to consider the possibility of theft or other crimes coming from within the department. Firefighters of all ranks have managed to shame the good name of their department. Implementing basic steps to minimize the risk of internal theft in your firehouse can make all the difference in improving morale and preventing untoward behavior.

Background, Reference & Credit Checks

Prevent those with poor decision-making skills from becoming part of the team. It is important to look at criminal history and conduct reference checks. An individual’s past behavior and former employers feedback can determine a lot.

Conducting credit checks of team members entrusted with fire department finances can also help, as those with poor credit history are at a higher risk of acting unethically out of desperation and temptation. 

Internal and External Checks & Balances

Have multiple sets of eyes to help catch both intentional and unintentional mistakes. Prohibit the signing of blank checks and require multiple signatures on checking and other financial accounts. Those approved for signing must be independent of one another. 

Reconcile the bank statements monthly by both someone inside and outside of the organization. Cross-reference each check with approved purchase orders to verify the expense was authorized. Avoid having any financial documents being sent to home addresses. 

Conduct a quarterly inventory of department-owned property to ensure it’s all accounted for and available for use. 

Expense Requests & Reimbursements

Expense pre-approvals should involve a paper trail with signatures to help prevent abuse. Requests for reimbursement should also require a form and the supportive documentation verifying the expense. Avoid issuing department charge cards to multiple members. Credit card statements should also be closely monitored each month with charges being matched to pre-approval forms and receipts.

Clear Expectations

Develop an organizational culture with clear behavioral expectations. Organizations should be using a code of conduct as a standard for outlining behavioral expectations. This document won’t prevent internal theft, but it can serve as a clear benchmark for member behavior.

A code of conduct should be introduced to all new members during orientation. Not only should they read and sign it, but leadership should also go over each point verbally to explain its importance. It should be reviewed and updated each year. 

Encourage members to report concerns of dishonest conduct without fear of retaliation. Have a plan in place to respond to any problems that should arise and how the situation will be communicated to the rest of the team and the public.

Rotation & Cross-Training of Duties

The rotation and cross-training of duties is a great way to uncover embezzlement. Scheduled breaks in duty allow issues to be discovered in a more timely manner and ensures a trained replacement is ready to handle financial duties for continuity of business.

Remember to routinely change passwords and combinations after member departure is important and at least once a quarter.

Leadership should always be on the lookout for concerning behaviors and address them immediately. 

About Provident FirePlus

At Provident FirePlus, we offer custom-tailored packages to best protect firefighters and volunteer firefighters. We understand the risks that emergency response teams are subjected to on a daily basis, and have worked to serve these dedicated professionals for over 87 years. For more information about our products and policies, we invite you to contact our experts today at (855) 201-8880.