1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Posts
    1

    Question Calling the chief by first name

    This is a topic I'd like some opinions on. Short of the story: I'm soon to take on my first chief job. Medium sized career department with 57 guys on the floor, no volunteers. I'll be their only 3rd outside fire chief in their over 120 year history. All of the ones in the last 20 years have been promoted from within. Obviously, they're not going to know what to make of the new guy for a while.

    What do people think of the practice of calling a chief by their first name as a way to break down barriers, or does it cause too many problems with discipline? I've been associated with or worked at a lot of fire departments over the years, and I always remember that one of the funnest and relaxed ones to be around was the one place where the chief insisted that everyone call him "Bob." He'd actually get perturbed when new guys would try to call him "chief."

    The reason I think about this now is that there is obviously going to be a lot of trepidation in my new department because the guys don't know me. Some of them probably won't trust me initially. I was thinking of the idea of telling them that around the station, they could call me "Jack," but when we're out in the public or at emergency scenes, I'd prefer "chief." It seems like a good middle ground to me, and might be a way to break down that initial distrust guys will have with me.

    Good idea, or better to just leave it to the traditional paramilitary structure?

  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Hampton, Virginia
    Posts
    145

    Default

    Well being in the Air Force and currently holding the position of Assistant Chief of Special Operations, I would recommend presenting the policy that you are addressed as "Chief" until YOU feel personnel earned the privilege to call you by your first name. What I am saying is that if you go in and immediately say, "call me Jack", it lowers the Rank respect factor. Force of habit, the guys will call you Jack on the fire-ground or in public and the opinions of others will be this guy is just a friend rather than a leader. I've seen this case played out in several departments. You're transitioning from a co-worker to a leader position and the fact is that your staff has to respect the Rank even though you may be strong friends both in and outside of the department with them.

    It's funny that when I returned to the Air Force as a firefighter, I actually came across one of my old friends that I worked with before. He outranked me when I returned and I out of respect called him by his Rank or duty title. Now after work i.e. on the golf course; that was a different story. But if we were around other firefighters especially the probies, it was duty title and name unless he specified otherwise.

    I know it seems trivial to talk about a simple name or title, but as I said, it's the rank respect issue. Get the staff to respect that and the rest will fall into place without any trouble. It's like talking to the President of the United States. You would not simply walk up and say hello Barack how are you. No you would greet him as "Hello Mr. President, how are you today?" See what I am getting at with the Rank respect issue?

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Lusby, MD
    Posts
    1,035

    Default

    I agree with the previous response. Stay with Chief until they earn your respect and can call you by your first name.

    I very rarely call our Chief by his first name, even in his office. It's a habit of mine, and a matter of respect. Where i have a problem remembering is with the lower level officers. (Keep in mind that I'm a volunteer, so it's a little different). Our Capt. want's us to address each other by rank when in the fire house and especially on scene as a matter of professionalism. It's a hard habit to get into.

  4. #4
    Forum Member
    fireman4949's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Tallahassee, Florida
    Posts
    2,323

    Default

    I also agree that the title of "Chief" should be used.

    Respect and trust can only be earned, not simply handed out by using first names.

    The members of your department will soon enough begin to trust and respect you based upon your leadership abilities and style, not simply because they are allowed to call you Jack.

    If you want to be called by your first name away from the job, I really see no problem with that, but professionalism is a very important aspect of the image your department presents, both to the public as well as to its rank and file members.
    Fire Lieutenant/E.M.T.
    IAFF Local 2339
    K of C 4th Degree
    "LEATHER FOREVER"
    Member I.A.C.O.J.
    http://www.tfdfire.com/
    "Fir na tine"

  5. #5
    Forum Member
    TNFF319's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Collierville, TN
    Posts
    628

    Default

    From the little fireman's view... I feel much more at ease with a chief who knows his $hit compared to knowing his name and how many kids he has. Personal stuff is great but knowledge and skill would win me over. I think lieutenants can get away with the first name stuff more so than the chief. Congrats on the chief job.
    FF/Paramedic

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Riverside, WA 98849
    Posts
    2

    Default Chief

    I would agree that the title of "Chief" Should be used. That is a position that was earned and is a well deserved title. It may put you guys on the floor at ease by calling you by your first name, but you do have to set some guidlines right from the get go. Set the ground rules and see what happens. It wont take long!

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    JayDudley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Idaho
    Posts
    1,272

    Default Chief

    As a Veteran I always use the rank when I talk to someone who has it. To this day, even as Fire Commissioner, I call the Chief "Chief". The ex-chiefs of our department are also called "Chief". They earn the title from me till the day they die. That's just me......
    Respectfully,
    Jay Dudley
    Retired Fire
    Background Investigator
    IACOJ-Member
    Lifetime Member CSFA
    IAFF Alumni Member

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Hampton, Virginia
    Posts
    145

    Default

    I'm glad to see everyone is on point with the title of "Chief". I think we can all agree that it's not just a Title but rather a way of showing respect, and the individual holding that position being respected.

    Jay... i liked your post but I have to disagree with one point. You stated they ear that title from you until the day they die. Let's not simply write off our Chiefs when the die. Chiefs eared that title, or at least I hope they did and in doing so, they hold that title even in death. If we as firefighters, company officers, etc, respect the individual enough, when we talk about them after they pass, we should continue to call them Chief.

    Although I am Air Force, think of the Marines when they say, once a Marine...Always a Marine. The same concept applies. If the individual was well respected and "earned" the position, then once a Chief...Always a Chief.

  9. #9
    Forum Member
    JayDudley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Idaho
    Posts
    1,272

    Default Correct

    2002....OOOOOOORAHHHHHH. You are correct. What I meant to say is that they will always be "Chief" to me reguardless of their rather they are with us or not.
    Respectfully,
    Jay Dudley
    Retired Fire
    Background Investigator
    IACOJ-Member
    Lifetime Member CSFA
    IAFF Alumni Member

  10. #10
    Forum Member
    nmfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Maryland (DC Suburb)
    Posts
    5,738

    Default

    We're a very small department, one station, everyone knows everyone and are friends outside the FD. Nobody goes by title. Even at incidents, we talk to each other by name, not rank.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  11. #11
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    White Plains, NY
    Posts
    77

    Default

    Don't let them call you by your first name while on the job. By that i mean on the fire ground, on the apparatus floor or any social functions (ie. inspections, parades, etc.) Now when your in your office and you are speaking about normal stuff that is on a person to person level then they can use your first name. Also wait a few months before they can use your first name. a few years down the road when relationships have been established, then they can use your first name. Then after that new guys refer to you as Chief while they are probies. Ya i know that was kinda long winded but i hope it makes sense to everyone.

  12. #12
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    77

    Default

    To me it doesn't matter. Either way it sure beats "hey you"

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber
    achief15's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Outer Banks, NC
    Posts
    128

    Default

    I prefer the staff address me as "Chief". I also expect the guys to address their superiors by their title, or some form of it, especially in public. As in Captain Smith, or even Cap. The show of respect for the job doesn't hurt, and I think is somewhat lost with each new generation of probationary firefighters. Off duty however, Glenn is just fine with me.
    Glenn Rainey
    Colington Fire Department
    Dare County, North Carolina
    The Outer Banks

  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Lusby, MD
    Posts
    1,035

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by achief15 View Post
    I prefer the staff address me as "Chief". I also expect the guys to address their superiors by their title, or some form of it, especially in public. As in Captain Smith, or even Cap. The show of respect for the job doesn't hurt, and I think is somewhat lost with each new generation of probationary firefighters. Off duty however, Glenn is just fine with me.
    I agree, I just have problems getting used to calling people by a title that I knew as firefighters just a year before.

  15. #15
    Forum Member
    JayDudley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Idaho
    Posts
    1,272

    Default Chief

    I know it's hard to address someone by their title as they pass you by. I chose to stay an Engineer and taught a lot of those who passed me by on the way to their goal. Mine was Engineer and those who passed me deserve their title weather they deserve it or not. I guess it's my military background that makes me think that way.
    Respectfully,
    Jay Dudley
    Retired Fire
    Background Investigator
    IACOJ-Member
    Lifetime Member CSFA
    IAFF Alumni Member

  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Great State of Texas
    Posts
    120

    Default

    When the rank and file respects and you as the rank, "Chief" will be your first name.

    I would not encourage the use of but I wouldn't make an issue out of it either, especially in a public way if someone did use it. Demanding a title could also work against you.

    Although I am not a Chief, I have had lower ranks call me by my first name or nickname. I don't see it as disrespect but a level of comfort that I can be easily approached. If I feel it wasn't the time to be that personal or was from a suck ***, I just ignored it.

    I am ex military but in some cases I think it may work against people especially with a non military background.

    Be safe, R2

  17. #17
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Western Washington
    Posts
    30

    Default

    If you don't have a prefence (or don't mind going by your first name) why not just see how they choose to address you (chief, boss, your name etc)? You might learn a lot about their culture that way. Later, if you develop a strong preference, make the change that best suits your vision for the department. Just make sure you communicate your reasons well. Good luck!!!

  18. #18
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Lusby, MD
    Posts
    1,035

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TucksMedicAided View Post
    If you don't have a prefence (or don't mind going by your first name) why not just see how they choose to address you (chief, boss, your name etc)? You might learn a lot about their culture that way. Later, if you develop a strong preference, make the change that best suits your vision for the department. Just make sure you communicate your reasons well. Good luck!!!
    Interesting how people migrate to using ranks. I've noticed people this year calling me "LT". I dont' mind, but sometime takes me a second to figure out they're talking to me. Only problem I've had is a couple of people calling me Captain, and having to correct them.

  19. #19
    Forum Member
    CaptOldTimer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    7,257

    Default

    The fire service being a liked an military outfit, has a rank structure.

    When a member studies and past all the hoops and hurdles and get promoted, they are deserving to be address by the rank. If you allow members to address you by Bob, John or Lawrence, then they show no respects for the rank of an Officer.

    Years back a guy, I worked with this member as a private, called me by my first name while operating at a job. A Battalion Chief heard him and reamed him a new one. I told him afterwards I really didn't care but he should address me by Lt. when around othr members. If we were in my office or outside sitting on the bench he could call me whatever.

    I worked for a Captain years back when I came on the job. I drove him when he was a Battlion Chief and he rose to the rank of Deputy Chief. Thirty years later I still address him as Chief when I see him. He earned that rank and he was well respected.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  20. #20
    MembersZone Subscriber
    NathanWert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Lancaster, NH, USA
    Posts
    118

    Default

    For your situation I would start with Chief and see how thins progress after time.

    I work for a very small volunteer department and we intermingle calling our chief by his first name, last name and his title. It all depends on where we are when talking to him.
    FF-II/EMT-B/Incident Safety Officer/Photographer
    Lancaster Fire Department
    First run area (Fire): Lancaster, NH & Guildhall, VT (84.3 Sq Miles)
    First run area (Ambulance): Lancaster & Jefferson, NH; Gilman, Guildhall & Lunenberg, VT (185.1 Sq Miles)

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Calling the chief?
    By EmtFirePete in forum Hiring & Employment Discussion
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 06-30-2008, 09:57 AM
  2. Calling Bou??............
    By hwoods in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 22
    Last Post: 05-14-2008, 06:12 PM
  3. Fire Chief & Deputy Chief Face Charges In Firefighters Death
    By RalphSafety in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 10-10-2006, 11:53 AM
  4. Calling 911
    By nozzelvfd in forum The Off Duty Forums
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-16-2005, 07:47 PM
  5. Calling?
    By Fire Eater 07 in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 07-12-2001, 07:40 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register