Making the Fire Officer Decision: What Choice Will you Make?

The people you work with deserve your best.Fire officers are given a specific job. They must lead the companies they work with and are responsible for making decisions regarding the safety of the team. The decisions they make are the reason the...


The people you work with deserve your best.

Fire officers are given a specific job. They must lead the companies they work with and are responsible for making decisions regarding the safety of the team. The decisions they make are the reason the positions exist.

Many decisions are made under times of great stress. Lives may be at stake. The choices they make can and will impact the lives of several people. Deciding to go for a rescue, writing off a building and staying defensive and holding fast to the "two in/two out" rule are some of the fireground decisions we get paid extra to make.

Some of these decisions will be wrong. We are human. Not having all the facts and placing a time pressure on these things can result in errors that can and will be criticized by others for weeks and years to come. It is easy to fight a fire you were not at. It is easy to pick apart decisions made by someone when they are under duress when those same circumstances are not bearing down on you.

In a lecture Chief Dennis Compton gave, he asked, "Can bad stuff still happen even if you do everything right?" He was answered by the entire lecture hall that "Yes, bad things can still happen, even if you do everything right."

So, if making all the right decisions can still result in a bad outcome, there is a great deal of weight placed on making wrong decisions. You should avoid tipping the odds into the house's favor.

The people you work with deserve your best. This can be a dangerous job. They will put themselves in danger as a result of your decisions. That is sobering. That also demands respect. Minimize the chance of placing them in harms way by working to make better decisions.

Good decisions and sound practices are the goal. Reaching that goal will be the result of experience, education and training. The theory of "best practices" allows us to learn from others mistakes and also from their successes. Author John Maxwell wrote, "A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others. The wisest man, learns from the successes of others." Read, ask and more important...listen. The goal is to learn.

A large percentage of decisions being made by fire officers are not on firegrounds at all. They revolve around station duties, daily training and handling conflicts at work. These can also prove difficult to make. Many people may be affected with these decisions as well. You can not prepare for all situations in advance.

One that you can prepare for is the manner in which you treat your team. This decision should be made before you ever have a team to lead. If you have not made up your mind, it is not too late.

Consider the fact that every person you work with wants to be part of the team. Before a new firefighter signs their name to the list, they know that firefighting is a team sport. We need each other. The acronym TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More. Team spirit may wax and wane, but the underlying fact is: we are a team. As a team, we are able to accomplish more than one person or a group of individuals.

As the fire officer, you are a player/coach. In order to get the best performance from your team, you need to train them, encourage them and praise them. They will play harder for someone that respects and motivates them. Highly motivated teams win more often.

In the world of firefighting, winning is not about how may points are on a score board at the buzzer. Winning is about the safe return of all members and the most efficient resolve to the problem we have been tasked to solve. Losing can have terrible consequences. (The most unfathomable losses of line of duty injury or death will be discussed in a further article.)

Here is the part that you can decide on in advance. How will you treat your team? You must decide whether or not you will be nice. You must decide whether or not you will be supportive. You must decide whether or not you will be encouraging. You can prepare for winning or losing mentally long before it happens. You can then execute your game plan when the time comes. These decisions will show your character to the members.

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