A New View: From the Front Seat

As a company officer, you are going to be put in a position of "Having all the answers."

The shift was finally over and none too soon! The night tour was a busy one, and on more than one occasion, we responded from one incident to the next. These three nights had really been taxing, along with the normal mundane calls for service we also had several vacant house fires and two multiple alarm fires. This was not a common occurrence; however, Murphy does still show up from time to time.

Each incident brought some remorse with it, as this would be a tour different from any other. The fact is that it would be my last as a firefighter forcing doors, pulling ceilings, cutting roofs, searching rooms for hidden fire or trapped occupants. Our first night in to work I received a phone call from the fire chief informing me that I had been selected for promotion to lieutenant.

The view from the front seat is a lot different from the view in the jump seat. The jump seat lets you see where you have been, but the front seat lets you see where you are heading. Having never been in this position the view can be overwhelming. What will be expected from anyone being put into this position? How does one take that first step at becoming a boss?

Let's look at this all-important position, the company officer! As a company officer, you can expect to find yourself handling a variety of activities within the organization. More than likely you will be, at some point in time, the senior representative of the fire department at an incident. These incidents can range from a minor emergency medical situation to a more involved automobile accident with people pinned. Then again, you may find yourself assuming command at a fire as the first unit on scene. Whatever the situation, you are going to need to know a great deal more than you might think.

"Having All the Answers"

As a company officer, you are going to be put in a position of "Having all the answers." To assist you in this area, the first item on your list of things to do should be to get started with some professional development. This development can come in different forms from attending professional seminars and training courses to a more structured means, such as your local community college or state run fire academy.

The company officer's most important job will be the challenges of "safety." Safety cannot be an after thought. As a company office, you must put safety at the top of your list of things to be watching. The safety of your crew is first and foremost, followed by the safety of other firefighters and emergency workers such as the police and emergency medical personnel.

Your concern for safety, however, doesn't stop with the responders. There are others on the scenes that are your responsibility. You may have the power company on location assisting with securing the utilities, or perhaps the Red Cross assisting with the fire victims or the media covering the event. Last of all there is the public that are drawn to the incident. Safety is a big job and needs a great deal of attention.

Management Basics

Being a company officer means you have just become a part of management. To put it in a simple term it's getting work done through others. As simple as it sounds it's not that easy. Many books and articles have been and will continue to be written on this subject. All will include the basic activities of a manager as being: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, and controlling.

Planning is the starting point where goals and objectives are established. Planning can be broken down into three basic areas: Short-term planning which looks at today, tomorrow, and the rest of this year. Mid-term planning, and the one that is used more often when looking at where a fire department wants to be in one to five years. The last area is long-term planning looking beyond five years.

Organizing will establish a formal structure through which tasks are arranged, defined, and coordinated. This organization keeps the department's functions in mind and will attempt to focus our energy on the goals and objectives, which were established in the planning stage.

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