Sunday, January 1, 2017

You Think You're Ready. Do Your Officers Agree?

First, let me express our best wishes to all of you, for a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year. This is a great time for reflection. No, not in order to declare "New Year's resolutions," but to help you set a personal course for the next twelve months.

If you have been following this blog and listening to our podcasts, you will know that a good deal of our conversation has been about leadership. So for this post, I will concentrate of those of you who are front-line firefighters and not officers. Yet, it is quite possible that some or many of you are thinking about advancing your career to become a line officer. However, you must see your responsibilities clearly, if this is to happen.

You may feel that you have the key leadership traits that one needs. Moreover, some of your comrades and/or an officer or two have given you that, for many of us, is that desperately-needed "pat-on-the-back." And from that, you now see the "Yellow Brick Road," ahead of you through "rose-colored glasses." However, to be a leader is much more involved than ordering those under you. 

"What do you mean? I can tell people what to do! Isn't that enough?"

If you even have to ask that question, take a step back. You're not ready to be a leader!

Why not? Because you are being short-sighted. You're not seeing the forest for the trees. Let's go back and review everything that happens when the tones hit. However, I don't want you to look at yourself in this "mental movie." I want you to watch your lieutenant, captain, of any officer that rides in the right seat. Sure, sure, he/she will handle the sirens, airhorns, and even the bells! But that "right seat" demands a lot more than your dexterity with switches, pedals and ropes.

Watch that officer. Record in your mind everything that officer does. Besides managing the emergency signals, he/she is listening to or requesting updated information on your destination and its event. As it turns out, you'll be first on scene. As the officer get the first glimpse, he/she is on the radio with the update that you have a working structure fire. As soon as he/she has that info, they assign each of you to a task. A good officer will also make sure that those in the jump-seats, are properly attired and fully encased in their PPE and wearing/tested their SCBA.

At that very same time, the officer is sizing up the scene in his/her head; preparing for rescues, planning for the incoming apparatus' location and their jobs, assessing the need for mutual aid and additional manpower. And all this is happening in just a few seconds.

Are you ready for that responsibility? Are you mature enough to understand that there is every possibility that you will be burdened with making life or death decisions? Do you have the necessary abilities and inner strength to command such a complex scene as the IC? 

Do you lay-in on arrival or just drop the hydrant package for the next due apparatus. Do you have your firefighters pull a line or begin a search for reported trapped victims? Are you able to set those primary commands in action and leave the safety of the apparatus to do a 360-degree assessment of the property, with the voices of dispatch, incoming line officers, senior officers and your own teams calling you on your radio?

Listen, you may have everything it takes to be a leader and a line officer and perhaps, even a chief officer. However, you must understand that though you think you're ready to the lead the troops, you must first truthfully assess all of the duties and responsibilities of an officer and then, see if you're ready. If you are not sure, ask the person in the mirror. He/she will never lie to you.

You take it from there!

Watch for our next podcast from "5-Alarm Task Force," coming soon!

Stay Safe!


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