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  1. #1
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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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    MembersZone Subscriber tree68's Avatar
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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.

  7. #7
    Let's talk fire trucks! BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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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.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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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.

  19. #19
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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.
    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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    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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