What Every "Route" Company Officer Needs To Know

  Many fire departments have what is known as a "route," or "relief," company officer (a captain or lieutenant); the person who does not have a regular shift or station assignment and fills in as needed for company officers on vacation, out sick or...


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  • Are there any specialized map books for that first-due area or unique to that station? If so, where are they and is there any special way to interpret them?
  • Does the station have run cards to find each street and address in their first-due area? If so, where do you find them?
  • Is there a pre-fire plan book with drawings or pictures of the major target hazards?
  • If there are any parks, trails, etc., where are the parking lots, gates, access roads, most commonly dispatched locations, challenges, etc.?
  • Where do the "frequent flyers" live? What are some important things to know about these individuals?
  • Which locations do we most commonly respond to? What are some important things to know about each of these locations (access points, special hazards, response history, etc.)?
  • Are there any pre-designated locations to land a medical helicopter?
  • Where are our closest hospitals, including trauma centers, burn centers and emergency rooms?
  • Are there convalescent or assisted-living facilities? If so, where are they, what types of patients do we typically respond to, what typical challenges do we face at that facility, etc.
  • Where are the locations of all of the schools? Where are the fire department connections for the sprinkler and/or standpipe systems located?
  • Are there any other target hazards I need to know about?
  • Which fire departments (if any) do we most frequently run with on mutual aid? What are their radio frequencies? What are the most commonly run with apparatus designators for those other fire departments?

While no two fire departments are the same, the same typically holds true that no two fire stations, even in the same fire department, operate in the same manner. This makes it more important for route company officers to have pre-planned what they are getting into, prior to even getting to work at that fire station they are not normally assigned to.

Instead of setting yourself up for disaster, set yourself up for success and life as a route company officer will not be as bad as some make it to be.

Special thanks to my good friend Captain Don Carlson of the Santa Clara County Fire Department for his assistance and inspiration with this column. His thoughts were the foundation for it.

STEVE PRZIBOROWSKI, CFO, is a 16-year veteran of the fire service and is currently serving as a battalion chief for the Santa Clara County, CA, Fire Department. He is an instructor in the Chabot College (Hayward, CA) Fire Technology Program, where he has been instructing fire technology and EMS classes since 1993. Prziborowski is an Executive Board member and past president of the Northern California Training Officers Association. He has a master's degree in emergency services administration, is a student in the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy, is a state-certified chief officer and master instructor, and has earned the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation. He may be contacted via www.chabotfire.com.