The First Five Minutes for the Officer

The first five minutes of your shift do not belong to you, the officer; They belong to your firefighters.It has been widely reported that the first five minutes determines how the next five hours will be spent on the fireground. This generalization places...

Is this to say that you have to be having a great day every time you come to work? Not hardly. The difference is that you can not allow your bad day to influence the day your co-workers are going to have.

If you come to work grumpy, displaying a long face and the personality of a rabid pitbull, do you think the people you work with will take notice? Of course. They will take that clue and this attitude most likely will perpetuate and more importantly resonate with them. They absorb the negativity. This will absolutely impact their performance.

On the other hand, if you are sincere and show caring and compassion to the team, they will return the favor. They can even bolster your mood. This synergy is an amazing gift. Positive energy will flow like an electric current between all parties. They deserve to see you giving them your best effort. After all, we look for that very thing from them all day.

Relating this idea to the fireground is easy. We know how to use strategy, tactics and tasks already. As the first arriving officer to a fire, we employ these (simplified) principles:

  • Strategy: Put the fire out.
  • Tactic: Engine 1, stretch a line to the fire.
  • Task: Firefighter Jones applies water until extinguished.

As the first arriving officer to the firehouse, we also employ these:

  • Strategy: Promote a positive attitude and work environment.
  • Tactic: Greet all members.
  • Task: Smile and say "Good Morning" to every teammate.

If you are having a great day, this will be readily apparent. Your aim will be to encourage the same feelings in others. If you are not feeling great, then by putting down your emotional baggage, you refrain from causing a negative chain reaction. Strike an optimistic tone and you will shape the attitude for the next few hours.

The cumulative effect of positive attitude can not be underestimated. The level of customer service will be better. Stress levels will remain lower, reducing stress hormones and the possibility of deleterious health effects. The workplace will be more enjoyable. Productivity will increase and worker satisfaction will rise. All of these things make your job easier and more pleasant.

Jameson R. Ayotte is a Fire Lieutenant/Paramedic with the Amesbury, MA Fire Department. He began his career in EMS in 1994 and entered the fire service in 2002. Lieutenant Ayotte has been a company officer since 2005 and is the Shift Commander of Group 1. He is a member of the Amesbury Fire Honor Guard.

Lieutenant Ayotte holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology and an M.S. in Physical Therapy from UMass-Lowell. He is a certified Fire Officer I, Fire Officer II and Fire Instructor I. He also instructs Anatomy & Physiology and Medical Terminology. He lives in Amesbury with his wife Melanie and their two sons. He can be reached at