So You Want To Be A Company Officer

Congratulations on your promotion to company officer and accepting the responsibility to be a leader in your fire department. Now that you have reached this important step in your department, what do you need to know? How do you proceed from this point...

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We all have likes and dislikes of what our supervisor asks. You are the example for the subordinates assigned to you. Think about when you were a firefighter, what were the attributes of the good company officers, the people you had trust in? This brings us to our first area of discussion.

Role Model

How you conduct yourself is how your company perceives the way you want them to conduct themselves. Not everyone has the same personality, abilities, experience and work ethic. Acknowledge that your subordinates are all different individuals with varied career paths and different life experiences.

To earn respect, the one thing that cannot change is your capacity to be fair, calm and polite, and at appropriate times jovial. Be the person that you would like to work for. How you conduct yourself is how firefighters and paramedics perceive as acceptable behavior. "Do as I say, not as I do," will make you a very unpopular boss and stifle the ability of each individual to move forward:

  • You dress like an unmade bed, they dress like an unmade bed
  • You're late, they're late
  • You don't check your equipment, they don't check their equipment
  • You leave tasks to be completed by other officers, they leave tasks to be completed by other members
  • You brush off the public, they brush off the public
  • You volunteer for extra duties, they volunteer for extra duties
  • You complain about your superiors, they will complain about them and also you
  • You follow all rules and regulations, they follow those same rules and regulations
  • You are a safe and aggressive fire officer on the fireground, they become safe and aggressive on the fireground

Your conduct sends a message at all times. Know the standard operating procedures (SOPs) or standard operating guidelines (SOGs) of your department. Position your company where the chief and other responding apparatus will expect you to be. Deciding to make an unexpected, non-communicated move on the fireground so your company can sneak a hoseline past the first-due company sets an adverse standard that will bring angry feelings from the chief and neighboring units. Don't showboat. Work together and be a role model for helping each company to carry out their assignment.

Dress for the occasion. If you are representing the fire department, even if the occasion calls for a work station uniform, wear a neatly pressed work uniform. Don't allow convenient excuses be the reason for looking like a raggedly dressed bunch of uncaring individuals. This sends the message to department superiors and the public that you don't care. A full dress uniform is not always required, but attention to neatness is.

Whether interacting with civilians or other station members, always be a professional. Maintain calmness, no matter how angry you may be. Work hard at maintaining a composed atmosphere. During a calm discussion, you'll be surprised at how many ideas will surface to solve the problem. Regardless of how insulting someone may be, it is never an excuse to belittle anyone, be it a subordinate or citizen. You lose the opportunity to make your point when you resort to confrontational tactics.


There are varying reasons and contributing factors that affect your degree of success in motivating your firefighters. This occurs because there are varied tasks, people are diverse and there are department morale shifts. Allowing firefighters and paramedics to be involved in the decision-making process immediately improves morale.

Nobody has fun doing a job they dislike. Ease the pain by letting them decide how to do the job. The members need to be sold on the benefits of what they are doing. Examples are:

  • Building inspections can be coupled with an informal pre-planning tour. Throw out "what-if" questions. Standpipe and sprinkler locations, access and escape routes, evacuation routes, exposures, etc. Ask experienced members to offer their solutions.


You cannot assume that an individual is aware that he or she is doing something wrong unless you speak to that person and make it clear that you want a certain action or inaction to change. Keep each individual abreast of how he or she is doing, even if all the news is good news.