Whether you are planning to take a company officer or chief officer promotional examination that may require you to successfully pass a fireground simulation exercise, or you just want to improve your knowledge, skills and abilities as a company officer or chief officer, the information in this...
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Whether you are planning to take a company officer or chief officer promotional examination that may require you to successfully pass a fireground simulation exercise, or you just want to improve your knowledge, skills and abilities as a company officer or chief officer, the information in this column should be of interest to you. I am a strong believer that a promotional candidate should not just prepare for the actual test, but for the position itself. If you prepare for the position itself, you should be able to handle any situation or challenge that is thrown at you. If you only prepare for the test, you may miss key points that are necessary to survive in the real world in the position to which you aspire.
Strong command presence is not jumping or running around, yelling or doing other similar things that would make the average person look crazy or a little out of control; unfortunately, we have all seen at some point of our careers fire officers who think they need to yell, boss people around or talk loudly to show they have command presence. Strong command presence does not mean having to tell people you are the one in charge. If they cannot figure out who is in charge, you have another issue to deal with.
One of the most important traits or behaviors a fire officer (company officer or chief officer) can demonstrate is command presence. Strong, or excellent, command presence will not only increase your level of credibility and respect, it will demonstrate your confidence and your ability to properly manage an incident. It will also help calm down your personnel and provide them with some level of comfort that you are going to take care of them and successfully manage the incident.
Here are a few suggestions to improve your command presence:
- Remain calm, cool and collected at all times. Remember — you didn't cause the emergency; you're here to manage it and make it go away or at least not get worse.
- Think before you act or talk. Too many times, things are said or decisions are made that then have to be modified or canceled. Changing your mind too many times will make you sound wishy-washy.
- Be short, sweet and to the point. When talking, eliminate hesitation, pauses, ums, uhs or any other words that can reduce the effectiveness of your message. If you're talking more than 30 seconds at a time, you're going to lose the effectiveness of your message, not to mention cause confusion to whoever is listening to you or taking direction from you. The more you say, the more you may be wishing you didn't. Limit obvious words such as "be advised," "at this time" or the best "Do you have anything further?"; they just take up air time and don't really mean anything. I don't know about your dispatchers, but ours usually don't keep secrets. Meaning if they have information, they're going to tell us.
- When talking, be specific while providing directions. Don't leave your direction open for interpretation. Asking someone "Do you have the time?" may not get the answers you want. You may think you want to know what time it is, but your question did not come out that way.
- When giving direction, use action verbs. Stay away from the pleasantries (please, would you, could you, thank you, etc.).
- Know what you want to say. Which statement provides more command presence:
- "Um, Truck 1, um, would you please come into the scene, and um, mask up, and um bring your crew, and um, then have your crew, um, cut the electricity, and then um, um, cut a hole in the roof."
- "Truck 1, you are assigned as the Ventilation Group. Your tactical objectives are to provide ventilation and secure utilities."
If you answered "b," you were correct. Too many times, people talk without having practiced or thought of what they were going to say. If you have to tell your personnel to don their airmasks, then you have another issue on your hands. Personnel arriving on the fireground who are given an assignment should have a clue as to what tools, equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) to bring or wear.