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    Default Company command with no officers present

    I imagine that this has to happen pretty regularly in volunteer departments, but does your Dept. have some sort of SOP to determine who is in command of a company if no officer responds to a particular call?

    It isn't terribly unusual for several "generic" firefighters to show up at the station or on scene and for there not to be an volunteer engineer or captain with us. Sometimes we're blended in with the paid companies so this isn't a big deal, but other times we are not.

    Now, we usually look to the most experienced guy in the group, but I've never heard either the Chief or IC (if the Chief isn't there) say, "This guy is in charge".

    Seems to me that it is a pretty important thing to know who exactly is in charge of your group.

    Given the randomness with which people show up on calls, it seems that the only way to handle this is to have the Chief rank all the volunteers in the department and say that if a volunteer officer isn't present the highest ranking volunteer on scene is in charge unless otherwise directed.

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    The person that arrives in the right front seat of the first in vehicle should establish command. When a more senior or experienced member arrives, they would then have the option to take command or let it go. The theory of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", should be used. That's not to say that the next person in shouldn't assist. But, if the scene is going in the right direction, let the person in charge stay there and do their thing.
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    Same with us.

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    Our usual practice (in fact, I think it's in the by-laws) is "first key in the door."

    But that person will invariably turn command over to a senior member as quickly as possible.

    Since our chief lives just a few blocks from the station, the question is often moot, as he's the first one at the station (or scene).
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    Senior guy is what our bylaws state.

    It has never been an issue.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Like most said, the senior firefighter not driving is to take the seat and will have command until an officer arrives. Fortunately for us, we have a couple of officers that live in, so there usually isn't a problem. Our senior officers also work different shifts, so usually one is availabel to respond.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jbrescue View Post
    The person that arrives in the right front seat of the first in vehicle should establish command. When a more senior or experienced member arrives, they would then have the option to take command or let it go. The theory of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", should be used. That's not to say that the next person in shouldn't assist. But, if the scene is going in the right direction, let the person in charge stay there and do their thing.
    This. I'll add to it that command shouldn't be transferred a half-dozen times, but when the more senior and/or experienced member arrives, let them either assume command, or coach the initial IC through the incident.

    "Ranking" each volunteer is a waste of time, and frankly, probably won't work anyway.
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    Senior or most qualified individual. Its usually not a problem with my department...we have a good amount of officers who show up.

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    Hasn't normally been a problem. Rarely do we have calls where there isn't an officer present, and even then, it hasn't been a big deal. Everyone knows what to do and just gets it done without being told.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Senior guy is what our bylaws state.

    It has never been an issue.
    Ditto. Happens probably 3 or 4 times a year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Ditto. Happens probably 3 or 4 times a year.
    Ahh... my mind is slipping. It is not in our bylaws, but in our SOPs. I should know, I wrote em... but I'm getting old. We did change it to cover the change in NJ regulations:

    PROCEDURES:
    Chain of Command and Transfer of Command
    1. The senior ranking officer will be in charge of any incident.
    2. If no officer is present the senior most pack certified fire fighter (years of service with the Fire Department) who has Incident Management Level One, will assume the roll of O.I.C. with the responsibility and authority of the Chief.
    3. All lower ranking officers will report to Command or Operation Chief upon arrival at an incident to receive their assignment.
    4. Upon arrival of a senior officer he/she will report to Command to be updated on the current situation of the incident and may assume command.
    Last edited by ChiefKN; 01-20-2012 at 03:21 PM.
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    Hmm, I'm not sure that its always going to be a great idea to have command based solely on years of experience (assuming that you've got a group of firefighters who otherwise have obtained the same qualification).

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    Notice many people have said the most senior OR most qualified person.

    Is this currently an issue in your department, or is this a change that you're spearheading?
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    Yes, as I said in the original post it is an issue.

    Yes, I saw that some said most qualified, but that doesn't matter if everyone has the same official qualification. But, going strictly by seniority to break a tie doesn't make sense to me.

    If I'm going to put my life in the hands of someone, I'd rather that the decision be made on who that is based on something other than the fact that they decided to sign up a little earlier than I did.

    You guys all know people that have been in longer than you but who might not actually be able to lead their way out of a paper bag. Or the guy that knows a lot about firefighting, but can't make a decision to save his (or my) life. Or perhaps they've been for a while, but rarely train or go on calls. Is that really the guy you want in charge?

    Or, lets say that you have a call and the 4 guys who responded all just finished their rookie training at the same time. Who is in charge then? Yes, that has happened to me?

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    A officer is mandatory in right front in all apparatus with the exception of tenders. Period. Depending on call (multiple fatalities, potential suicide calls) we have filled the cab with brass before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miller337 View Post
    A officer is mandatory in right front in all apparatus with the exception of tenders. Period. Depending on call (multiple fatalities, potential suicide calls) we have filled the cab with brass before.
    Although we are not usually short on officers, there would be times that this would significantly delay our response. We will also roll several apparatus at the same time and don't necessarily need an officer in the seat of each one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eng34FF View Post
    Although we are not usually short on officers, there would be times that this would significantly delay our response.
    Same here. I know a lot of VFD's require an officer to be in the front seat before the rig goes, but not only would that significantly delay our responses, we also have a lot of guys that carry the knowledge, skills, and abilities to act as the officer and/or IC.

    Auxman, I'm getting the impression that there must be a power struggle between some folks, and everyone wants to be the IC?
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    Well, who the IC is isn't going to be the issue as we're a combination dept. and either the Captain of one of one of the paid companies or a Chief is going to be the IC. It is incredibly rare for a volunteer to be the IC and would only happen in those rare occasions when a call comes in while the paid guys are already occupied and the vols get first due.

    I'm talking about who is in charge of the volunteer company when they respond to incidents. And it actually isn't really a power struggle situation, but power avoidance seems to be more of the issue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miller337 View Post
    A officer is mandatory in right front in all apparatus with the exception of tenders. Period. Depending on call (multiple fatalities, potential suicide calls) we have filled the cab with brass before.
    So... I show up (served as a VFD officer for 15 years, including Chief, and I have to wait for the 26 year old LT from the other end of town?

    Let's not be stupid about this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by auxman View Post
    And it actually isn't really a power struggle situation, but power avoidance seems to be more of the issue.
    Is this an issue of everyone wanting to be the firefighter and no one wanting to be the officer so they can do firefighter tasks and not officer tasks? Been there before too.

    Our '88 Pierce engine had 4 seats, only 2 of which had SCBA. My self and another guy (used to work with you in Training, BoxAlarm) lived close to the station and we would get those two SCBA seats and be waiting for the others to come around the corner. They would be cussing us up and down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spencer534 View Post
    Is this an issue of everyone wanting to be the firefighter and no one wanting to be the officer so they can do firefighter tasks and not officer tasks? Been there before too.
    Well, we may have that issue with at least one and perhaps two of our actual vol officers.

    But, when we get a group of non-officers responding I think its a matter of not having any official policy on who is in charge and we sort of stand around looking at each other waiting for someone else tells us what to do. I think its that no one feels like they have a mandate to take the lead in that situation. And when the gaggle is given a task it is sort of performed by committee with everyone piping in on how to do it.

    The times I've seen this happen it was in fairly benign circumstances and while inefficient, wasn't going to get anyone killed. I'm just thinking ahead to what might happen in a really critical situation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    So... I show up (served as a VFD officer for 15 years, including Chief, and I have to wait for the 26 year old LT from the other end of town?

    Let's not be stupid about this.
    Works very well. The first reason we don't have any any 26 year old Luies,what we do have a very dedicated group of seasoned officers.
    As to you at our hall, just give me an arrival date Chief and a uniform size. I think we may have the fastest promotion in the history of the dept.
    In all reality this works very well for us. We do not have a very high call volume, the downside of that is that the vast majority of our calls tend to exceed the abilities of a young firefighter. Please don't think I'm dissing them, they do incredibly well. Their biggest failing is not being able to smoke cigars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miller337 View Post
    Works very well. The first reason we don't have any any 26 year old Luies,what we do have a very dedicated group of seasoned officers.
    As to you at our hall, just give me an arrival date Chief and a uniform size. I think we may have the fastest promotion in the history of the dept.
    In all reality this works very well for us. We do not have a very high call volume, the downside of that is that the vast majority of our calls tend to exceed the abilities of a young firefighter. Please don't think I'm dissing them, they do incredibly well. Their biggest failing is not being able to smoke cigars.
    I'm not sure I'm following what you are posting.

    Are you saying that if you have an engine full, you wait for an officer?

    When I said "i show up..", I meant on my department, not as a transfer. Maybe that is where we went off the rails in our posts. I don't mean as a transfer.

    Do you elect your officers? We do (and I don't like it, but so be it), so it is very likely that you will have quite a few senior guys (and ex-chiefs) responding on an engine with a brand new LT. So, that was the point of my post. It doesn't make sense for me and the engine to wait for him.

    The only rule is that if you see an officer pulling in the lot and you are not actively pulling onto the street, you are to wait.

    An unwritten rule is that if a bunch of officers show up, they are supposed to try to split up and ride with different crews. The exception would be if it would delay the response. Putting all the brass on the first due is not the best strategy.
    Last edited by ChiefKN; 01-22-2012 at 09:54 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    I'm not sure I'm following what you are posting.

    Are you saying that if you have an engine full, you wait for an officer?

    When I said "i show up..", I meant on my department, not as a transfer. Maybe that is where we went of the rails in our posts. I don't mean as a transfer.

    Do you elect your officers? We do (and I don't like it, but so be it), so it is very likely that you will have quite a few senior guys (and ex-chiefs) responding on an engine with a brand new LT. So, that was the point of my post. It doesn't make sense for me and the engine to wait for him.

    The only rule is that if you see an officer pulling in the lot and you are not actively pulling onto the street, you are to wait.

    An unwritten rule is that if a bunch of officers show up, they are supposed to try to split up and ride with different crews. The exception would be if it would delay the response. Putting all the brass on the first due is not the best strategy.
    Chief, we operate in much the same way. Chief officers are elected, but must meet county standards for experience and training. Lower officers are appointed by the Chiefs. We roll as soon as we have a crew. if an officer arrives later and still needs to get to the scene, they either catch the next piece out the door or can take a utility vehicle.

    Miller: If the system works for you, great, that's what matters. In most cases at our department, if you are not at the station, you won't catch the first piece out the door. Waiting for an officer just wouldn't work for us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    I'm not sure I'm following what you are posting.Yeah. I have the same problem.

    Are you saying that if you have an engine full, you wait for an officer?
    That is correct. It is possible that a truck could have to wait for an officer, but it is not very likely. We put alot of planning into making sure it doesn't.

    When I said "i show up..", I meant on my department, not as a transfer. Maybe that is where we went off the rails in our posts. I don't mean as a transfer. DARN.

    Do you elect your officers? We do (and I don't like it, but so be it), so it is very likely that you will have quite a few senior guys (and ex-chiefs) responding on an engine with a brand new LT. So, that was the point of my post. It doesn't make sense for me and the engine to wait for him. No we don't do elections. A firefighter must meet a set of minimum standards to even be considered. The Chiefs review the qualified firefighters and allow input from other officers concerning the firefighters abilities for the position. The Chiefs then make a selection and present their choice to both the Council and the Rural Board. I think the Rural Board has only ever questioned one selection, Council can talk things to death . After that review the firefighter is promoted.

    The only rule is that if you see an officer pulling in the lot and you are not actively pulling onto the street, you are to wait.

    An unwritten rule is that if a bunch of officers show up, they are supposed to try to split up and ride with different crews. The exception would be if it would delay the response. Putting all the brass on the first due is not the best strategy.
    Normally we don't, On most calls it is one officer per piece of apparatus with the exception of tenders. There are some calls we are reluctant to expose many of our younger members to, so you get a cab of brass. Thankfully those calls aren't real frequent.

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