While certain tasks don't need to be completed in pairs, firefighters and officers should be aware of each other's locations.
Photo credit: Photo by Ryan Pennington
"Maverick, you never leave your wingman!" How many of us have heard these words from the movie Top Gun as the senior flight instructor told pilot Maverick after he lost a battle in the sky.
If we take those words and apply them to our world, they can hold the same amount of value. If you are riding in the Jumpseat, like me, you can take these words to heart, as we should never leave our officer. Call it freelancing, or no discipline, but we all need to work under the command of our officers. This starts with making sure to stay beside them as we function as a crew of two.
A few months back, I wrote a blog confessing to the world that I might be a freelancer. Since that time, it made me realize that right beside my officer is where I belong. Accountability on the fireground starts at the crew level, with the officer-in-charge being responsible for everyone. If you are not beside them how can they be truly looking out for us? They cannot.
Most all of the fireground functions today are being done with less staffing than the previous generation. Crews of two, three, and if you are lucky, four are usually the normal for today's fire crews, so how does this affect our crew integrity? Can we stay together and still get the tasks done in a timely fashion? Can we really afford to stay together as a crew?
The answer to this question will have to be, maybe. I truly believe that in the set up phase of a response that we can function independently from our officers and still be under the scope of command. If we arrive on the scene of a fire, an officer should be able to assign us a task and expect it to be completed safely in a certain amount of time and wait for further direction.
A common example of this would be an order to stretch crosslay to the door on the A side and prepare for an interior push while the officer completes their 380-degree size-up. Are you right beside your officer? No. Should you enter the building alone? No. Can you begin to knock down the fire from the outside without an order? No.
Just because we are not standing right beside our officers, it does not give us the wide open approach. We are still functioning under their direction and we need to keep that in mind before progressing to the next task. Never leaving your wingman should be a phrase that rings in your head as you wait at the front door, ready to make your push to put the fire out.
Just like when Maverick lost in the sky, we could lose something very valuable, our life. While we can perform some fireground functions independently, we should never enter a IDLH environment alone.
If you need one just give me a call. I'll come be your wingman any day!
Stay safe and remember...Bunker up, buckle in, it's where we all begin!