The Journey: Missed Opportunities

A missed opportunity on the fire ground can lead to injuries and fatalities.If you have been following this series of articles, we have been discussing the journey to fire service leadership. In this segment, we will discuss missed opportunities: Those...

We can imagine thousands of situations where this might happen. The point is it should not happen. The leader should know every job he is asking his or her people to do. You trained for this job. You took the job because you felt you could do a better job than the guy who was doing it, right? You weren't just handed the white hat or the keys to the chief's car and told, "you got it," were you? If you were you have really missed an opportunity. You have missed the journey that is the education. Every short cut on the journey is a missed opportunity.

The time to learn is now before the opportunity passes. For the aspiring leader, you must be like a sponge ready to soak up any bit of wisdom that oozes out of a situation. Take every experience and compare it to the way you would have handled it. How well did it work? How would you have done it differently? Or would you? For the current leader the learning should never stop.

Missed opportunities occur with training as well. Have you ever been on a call and needed to use a piece of equipment that you were not familiar with, or not as familiar as you ought to be, and said to yourself, "I wish I paid more attention in class when they explained this."

Very often it is easy to laugh and joke about events like this but it does point out a real problem. The time to realize you need training is before you need it. Every time you walked past the rig and didn't take a tool off and use it is a missed opportunity. Every time you said, "I'll drill on that tomorrow" and didn't is a missed opportunity. Excuses come easy, but the true test of a leader is how well they do things.

As a leader you will be faced with many tasks; some tougher than others. When faced with the toughest I remember a sign that was posted in the office of one firehouse I worked in, it read "Look for a way, not a way out" and right below it was any other sign that read "Make it happen, don't make excuses."

I hope this commentary provided you with greater insight to the road ahead on the path to fire service leadership. I will be continuing the discussion in upcoming issues. Until then, stay safe.

Comments and questions are welcomed, send them to Don't miss the opportunity to tell someone how you feel!

Look for the next article, "The Journey: Loyalty and Honesty."

CHRISTOPHER FLATLEY, a Contributing Editor, is a 20-year veteran of the FDNY and a lieutenant currently assigned to Ladder Company 21 in Manhattan. Chris has twice served as chief of the Blauvelt, NY, Volunteer Fire Company and is currently the assistant chief and training coordinator. He is a nationally certified Fire Instructor 1 and is an instructor at the Rockland County, NY, Fire Training Center and holds a degree in fire protection technology. He is a Master Exercise Practitioner on the Exercise Design Team through the Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness. To read Chris' complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Chris by e-mail at: