My good buddy and teaching partner Rick Lasky and I do a lot of traveling, lecturing and learning around the country. Each of us has numerous technical and tactical programs that we present to various audiences, but one of our most popular and frequently requested is our company officer training program. I mention this program because one of the most important skills company officers can have is the ability to organize their days. Career or volunteer, when you enter the firehouse for a shift or a drill, there should be a specific place where you can quickly review what is going on, what is planned for today and who should be there with you for these events.
Some fire companies use an ordinary wall or desk calendar and simply write notes or scheduled events in each day’s little box. The problem is that the calendar quickly becomes filled or unorganized. What works well is an annual standard diary, or daybook. Use a hardcover bound diary because this book will be handled every day for the entire year. Even well-constructed diaries will get worn out by December. Use a daybook that dedicates an entire page for each day of the year. For example, if you turn to Jan. 7, the page heading will say “Jan. 7, 2013 – Monday.” The benefit of having an entire page for each date is there will be no overlapping entries and no last-minute entries squeezed between previously written notes.
For a career company, the shift can be written at the top of each page (A, B, C, etc.) or each firefighter and officer scheduled to work that day can be listed. The company officer who is scheduled to work in Engine 2 on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, simply has to open the book to that day’s page and read the names of the firefighters who will be working on that shift. If any scheduled firefighters are injured on their last shift or are off on a vacation day, their names will be crossed off, notations will be made next to their names that they are on medical leave or vacation and the officer can make the proper leave entries. The names of firefighters who are working overtime or detailed into Engine 2 will be written adjacent to the names of the originally scheduled firefighters in the daybook. This little piece of information allows the officer to consider these firefighters’ experience levels, tactical abilities and what companies they are normally assigned to.
In addition to listing the shift or personnel who are working, the daybook is a great place to post or list specific activities that need to be conducted that day. A company officer working a 24-hour shift on Monday may plan to conduct building familiarization on the next shift on Friday. The officer can make a simple entry, “Bldg. fam. 1000 hrs,” indicating the company will be performing that duty at 10 A.M. that day.
The company commander or the battalion chief may make a monthly or even yearly schedule for hydrant inspections or training drills. The officer who is on duty when the days for such scheduled activities are announced can quickly make an entry on each of the days when this duty is now required. This long-term planning, coupled with it being recorded in the daybook, allows for uncluttered shifts and equalization of the company administrative workload.
For a volunteer company, the daybook can be used in the same way. Even if you are not working shifts, weekly events such as a Wednesday night drill, monthly company meeting, officers meeting, commissioners workshop and the battalion drill can all be listed in this one location where all of the officers can be made aware of them and add events themselves.
Who makes entries in the daybook must be decided by the officers or the company commander. What doesn’t work is letting anybody and everybody write in the daybook. Many companies allow only officers to make entries and others have a longer list of approved personnel. This ensures accuracy and authenticity and also prevents double entries for one event and crowded, unorganized pages.
If this idea sounds at all interesting to you, discuss it with the officers of your unit or department and do it. Go to any office-supply store, buy a daybook and set it up to serve your company and officers. I believe it will streamline your unit, help you organize and equalize your workload, bring all of your officers up to speed on what is happening on their shifts and on the other shifts and generally raise the level of organization in your company or unit.