25 Common Mistakes Made by New Fire Officers

As a rule, firefighters making the transition to officer are usually not given the proper training and tools necessary to becoming a successful manager.


Gave only negative criticism - How does this approach work with you, not a very effective motivator is it? What's the old adage "scold in private, praise in public"? A good motivator will give praise as quickly as they would offer criticism.


Failed to deal with problems immediately - Have you ever had a tooth ache leave, never to return? Problems do not go away. The best approach is deal with them as soon as possible. It will be one more thing that is not piled on the plate.


Didn't know when to seek advice from or to advise superiors of problems - A good officer will anticipate problems and will not wait for something to blow up in their face. If help is needed they should ask for it, the sooner the better. As stated above, problems do not go away, they just become bigger.


Lacked knowledge of labor laws, contracts or procedures - We now live in a litigious society, a lack of labor laws and departmental Sop's can get any fire officer into big trouble; ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is the department's responsibility to make sure that their manager (fire officers) understands the law and they do not discriminate against anyone.

Being a supervisor in any profession will challenge anyone at one time or another. The role of a fire service manager is probably more demanding than most traditional positions. Mr. Fulton's' list is quite extensive; for comparative purposes, I am sure that most of you can apply your personal experience and observations to the 25 Common Mistakes list. If you are currently a fire officer or aspire to be, you may be wise to look over this list from time to time. Don't be guilty of making these 25 mistakes, at least not all of them. You may not be able to change the fire department, but you can change yourself.

Source: Fulton, Roger V. Common Sense Supervision. 1998. Appendix 3. Page 80.

Dave Murphy retired as Assistant Chief of the Richmond (KY) Fire Department. He is an Assistant Professor in the Fire & Safety Engineering Technology program located at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Recently been named as Eastern Director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association, he also serves as the Health & Safety Officer for the Harrisburg (NC) Fire Department.