1. #1
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Memphis Tn,USA-now
    Posts
    5,436

    Default Who's in Charge?

    This article,written by Alan Bates was carried in the April 27,2009 issue of The Waterways Journal.As this pertains to firefighting,it can apply to mutual aid where there are lots of officers running around and some that think they can give orders to firefighters even from other departments,irregardless of previous orders from their own officers which have not yet been completed.It can lead to confusion,crucial orders not being carried out and more trouble than anyone really wants to deal with.
    I've been told in training that for mutual aid,it needs to be worked out *beforehand* who is in charge and who can give orders to whom.
    I wish that the manager of a boat store I used to work for had held this knowledge one day when I ran a grocery boat doing crew changes.It would have saved a lot of grief when a captain we were taking off his boat so he could go home tried claiming authority over me and my deckhand because we were doing a function for HIS company.I countermanded an order he gave my deckhand,the client captain complained to the dispatcher and I ended up spending time in the operations manager's officer being told how I have to do what our customers say,even though I held my own Master's license at the time.It might have been a 10 ton grocery boat with a two man crew and little room for a battleship's bridge discipline but it was mine to be in charge of and I should have been given that power.As I put it "I tell Chris and he does it.Who is this sort of a beach to tell me otherwise?I don't work for his company."

    Who's in Charge? by Alan Bates
    "We once had a substitute pilot on the Belle of Louisville.He was a garrolous old fellow,a man who would not shut up.
    Well,on this occasion there was a strong breeze out of the north when we left town for a lock trip designed to entertain the passengers by raising and lowering the boat in McAlpine Lock.The pilot traversed the canal in good shape,holding the boat's head into the wind and its stern off the other bank.Above the lock itself there was a tall guide wall that effectively sheltered the boat from the wind.
    We were seated on the lazy bench while the pilot blathered on and on about an ancient whistle he had on his back porch,even turning to face us from time to time to gesticulate.It was at one of those times that we passed the end of the walll.The Belle,relieved of all that wind pressure,took off toward the wall like a deer.WHAM!The boat ran in and hit that wall so hard it knocked down the roof bell.The stacks shimmied like a hula dancer at a luau.Even worse,more than 30 passengers were thrown from their chairs.
    Oh yes,we saw it coming and even stood to take over the sticks(Doug's note:most river boats use sticks to steer with,not a wheel.One pair controls the steering rudders when going forward and a second set for the backing rudders.The Belle of Louisville,though a true paddlewheeler uses this system for steering instead of the more traditional spoked wheel.)
    but some inner caution stopped us.When all the dust settled and the insurance forms were filled out,we asked the captain if we should have taken over. "No!,he replied,"If you had,you'd have bought the boat",meaning that the responsibility would have been ours.
    It was clear that IF we had saved the boat from that terrific blow,it would have saved much agony.On the other hand,if our heroics had failed,it could have been worse and the fault would have been ours.
    The captain had a bale of maritime law to back his position.For a mate to take over for a pilot on duty,the mate could be penalized.The same is true for any person who steps between a licensed steamboat officer and his staff.This applies to *everybody* ,including even the owner of the boat and his agents.The owner may tell the captain,"Take this boat to Chatanooga," but he can *not* tell the pilot "More left rudder".The owner can tell the master,"Have the engineer turn on the air conditioning,"but he must *not* tell the engineer to do so.
    On another occasion,a member of the operating board of the Belle tried to throw his weight around in the engine room.The engineer heard the man give a direct order to his striker(one working for a rating in a given department)and countermanded it.He told the board member to get out of his engineroom.The board member huffed"I'll fire you!"Thoroughly aroused,the engineer told him"You can fire me when we land but for now get the hell out or I will throw you out."
    The board member fled.
    Here again,the law was on the engineer's side.He didn't get fired.This dictum applied all the way down the line.
    Each crewman or woman is bound to obey the master or his representative only and exclusively while a vessel is underway.There is good moral as well as legal reasoning behind this dictum.Even the Bible in Matthew 6:24 tells us that "No man can serve two masters."On a steamboat,trying to do so can lead to disaster,especially when the command comes from a landsman.
    Another example may be found in judgement of the weather.Let us suppose the master looks out forward and sees a threatening cloud.He can order the pilot to "choke a willow"(to catch a line to a tree on the bank),to ride out the oncoming storm,but if the pilot refuses to do so,he immediately and immutably "owns the boat" and accepts full responsibility for his action.
    So,who can give orders to a deckhand?The boat's master or his delegated officer,in this case,the mate,may do so.Who may tell the striker to sweep the engineroom floor?The boat's master or his delegated officer,the engineer can do it.The interfering person,regardless of rank or authority from elsewhere,absolutely must not intervene between a boat's master and his staff when under weigh."
    Last edited by doughesson; 05-03-2009 at 02:50 PM.

  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber
    MalahatTwo7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
    Posts
    12,837

    Thumbs up

    Hahahaa. Thats just "Common Sense". Oh wait... maybe it aint that "common" anymore. I always just took it for granted that a visitor, no matter how Distinguished or even maybe experienced was just that: a visitor, with no rights of command whatsoever. As a sailor, I know exactly how I would respond to "direction" from anyone other than a member of my Ship's Crew. Initially polite, but in the "negative"; "Thank you for your concern, but No Sir. I wont do that." Except from Sea Training, but then they are differnt breed all together.

    Good article, Doug. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Memphis Tn,USA-now
    Posts
    5,436

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MalahatTwo7 View Post
    As a sailor, I know exactly how I would respond to "direction" from anyone other than a member of my Ship's Crew. Initially polite, but in the "negative"; "Thank you for your concern, but No Sir. I wont do that." Except from Sea Training, but then they are differnt breed all together.

    Good article, Doug. Thanks.
    Or how about"Yessir,just as soon as I can" and then conveniently "forget" the order.
    I am told that incompetence is the hardest charge to prove in a court martial.
    "No Sir.I was not attempting to disregard Lieutenant Smith's order.At the time he passed the order on to me,I was working on several tasks for other officers and still had not completed them by the time Mr.Smith's deadline had passed.I regret not being able to acomplish his given task because I figured that higher ranking officer's orders had priority."
    Above all NEVER tell an officer that you aren't going to carry out a command.For some reason,it makes them mad and you get into trouble.BTDT,spent an evening on EMI:Extra Military Instruction.Very little Military Instruction but lots of Extra duty.

  4. #4
    55 Years & Still Rolling
    hwoods's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
    Posts
    10,739

    Lightbulb Hmm...........

    Quote Originally Posted by doughesson View Post
    Above all NEVER tell an officer that you aren't going to carry out a command.For some reason,it makes them mad and you get into trouble.BTDT,spent an evening on EMI:Extra Military Instruction.Very little Military Instruction but lots of Extra duty.

    "OK Doug, the Radar's acting up. I know it's Snowing, but grab a light and get up on the Lead Barge as a lookout until the Radar settles down........"


    Settings vary, BS is always the same. Nobody ever got grabbed for Bow Lookout Duty on a warm Sunny Day..........
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber
    MalahatTwo7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
    Posts
    12,837

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by doughesson View Post
    Or how about"Yessir,just as soon as I can" and then conveniently "forget" the order.
    I am told that incompetence is the hardest charge to prove in a court martial.
    "No Sir.I was not attempting to disregard Lieutenant Smith's order.At the time he passed the order on to me,I was working on several tasks for other officers and still had not completed them by the time Mr.Smith's deadline had passed.I regret not being able to acomplish his given task because I figured that higher ranking officer's orders had priority."
    Above all NEVER tell an officer that you aren't going to carry out a command.For some reason,it makes them mad and you get into trouble.BTDT,spent an evening on EMI:Extra Military Instruction.Very little Military Instruction but lots of Extra duty.
    I HAVE Said this to a junior 2Lt, I was a Corporal at the time, and his Squadron Clerk:

    Task: Unit Duty Clerk, responsible for the Watch Desk during noon hour, and at the discretion of the Unit Chief Clerk (CC), other duties. In this instance, the CO was hosting an ops briefing at 1300, and I was tasked with typing up his briefing notes. In comes the 2Lt, urgently demanding that I "stop what I'm doing" so that I could type up his notes. When I identified that I was working on behalf of the CC for the CO's brief, he stated that "This is for the CO's brief." To which I responded, "Sir this IS the CO's brief." At which time I promptly turned back to the typewriter (yes we still used them - this was 1991) and continued with my work.

    This now whinny voice pipes up and says something about "urgently needed". I turned back to the 2Lt, took his notes from him, lifted up the entire basket of work and placed his notes underneath it. Then I looked up, and said,

    "Sir. I'll get to it WHEN I get to it. Now ^uck off and let me do my work."

    Then I turned back to my work and continued. Around the time that I spoke, two junior members of our staff (privates both) came in. They overheard my response, and after the 2Lt smiled, walked to the door and closed it on his way out, they both walked up and said, "That was an officer."

    "Yes it was."

    "You can't talk to them like that."

    "Yes I can, and yes, I did."

    "But..."

    Ok, now I'm starting to get annoyed (like I wasnt before?) and answered "Did he leave with a smile and close the door on his way out?"

    "Yes."

    "Well then, whats the problem?"

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    2,439

    Default

    Who's in Charge?

    "Who's On First?" meets NIMS???

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

  7. #7
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Memphis Tn,USA-now
    Posts
    5,436

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusKspn View Post
    Who's in Charge?

    "Who's On First?" meets NIMS???

    You want me to post the relevant parts of "Towboat Fire Safety" about the Byzantine world of fire response where the Coast Guard gets involved with the local FD and who gets to be in charge of what?I've had that book a year now and I STILL don't understand that chapter.
    I'll do it!I swear!Don't make me do it!You.Don't go anywhere.Yer my ticket outta here.

  8. #8
    Forum Member
    rhvfd1214's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Aberdeen,MS USA
    Posts
    1,714

    Default

    The NIMS classes I've had never answered the question of how to replace an incompetent Incident Commander. Where is the mutiny section of the handbook??
    I fish for a living, but I have to work for money...

  9. #9
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Memphis Tn,USA-now
    Posts
    5,436

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    "OK Doug, the Radar's acting up. I know it's Snowing, but grab a light and get up on the Lead Barge as a lookout until the Radar settles down........"


    Settings vary, BS is always the same. Nobody ever got grabbed for Bow Lookout Duty on a warm Sunny Day..........

    Actually,I did one weekend up above Lake Pepin on the Upper Mississippi.Lotta boats being run by girls in some SKIMPY bikinis that day."Memories,like a misty mountain memory,of the way we were..."
    Thanks Captain.
    And yes,I've been sent up to the head on snowy cooolllddd nights for lookout duty.
    I'm much preferenced to remember the time above Lake Pepin.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

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

Similar Threads

  1. No Officer: Who's in Charge
    By HTFD100Captain in forum The Off Duty Forums
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 01-30-2009, 05:02 PM
  2. who's in charge??
    By firefighterox in forum Illinois
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 11-30-2006, 09:49 PM
  3. Who's In Charge!
    By HFD400 in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 50
    Last Post: 05-09-2005, 05:22 PM
  4. Who's in Charge ?
    By Chief 50 in forum Emergency Services Administration
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 05-28-2000, 10:29 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