1. #1
    Marshal BHG 300
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post Duh, which way do we go and who's in command

    I am sure this happens in all departments, we are not unique. So I wanted to see how others deal with it. We have two officers who are the best of buds off the fire ground, but get them any where near the fire ground and they can't decide whos in command. Both of them bark different orders to the same people and stand around with radios in there hands acting like their in command of the greatest scene you've ever seen. The other day we had to call all of our volunteers to respond to an incident which required a lot of bodies to do the job. Three volunteers and the two officers showed up. The two that couldn't figure out who should command. The two officers stood around looking important and did basically nothing. The three volunteers worked their kazubies off. When a higher ranking officer called to see if they needed re-enforcements, of course the answer was no. Until one of the officers decided to pitch in several hours later, then after 20 minutes of work quickly called for some backup.
    Additionally one of these officers is notorious for bitching about everything and everyone to everyone. I have walked in to this person agrevatedly complaining to another officer of the same rank about a subordinate. I to am a subordinate, but he kept on talking when myself and three other subordinates entered the conversation. I am a firm believer in the chain of command and taking complaints upline not downline.
    So my questions are: How do you deal with an officer who always has to be incharge even when they don't know what they are doing, they don't follow chain of command at incidences, they refuse to get dirty, they complain about everything and to the wrong people? Pre-thanks to anyone who responds!

  2. #2
    S. Cook
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Based on what you're saying, the two that cannot decide who is in command have no concept of command, they just want to be in charge. That is until it hits the fan - then they'll be blaming each other.

    If an officer will not follow, he/she cannot lead.

    If your officers are elected, do not re-elect these two. If your officers are appointed, do not appoint them.

    If you're like us and your chief and a-chief are elected by the department and they appoint these officers knowing they do this, do not re-elect them as chief and a-chief.

    To be blunt, those that know about this and haven't done anything about it share the blame (regardless of rank). If they have tried to resolve it, and got no resolution, and they haven't taken it beyond these two up the chain, they still share the blame.

    [This message has been edited by S. Cook (edited July 31, 1999).]

  3. #3
    The Snake Man
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I don't know if I agree with the above. Its called politics. Alot of times these things are best left alone. If it starts to affect safety issues then yes by all means say something but as far as it being the individuals fault that witness's it I don't know. I think the political ramifications might be worse than dealing with the two clowns fighting over command.

    The Snake Man!
    Keep it above the water line!

  4. #4
    Bob Snyder
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I don't know if you're career or volunteer, so I don't know if this is an option...

    We have a simple way of dealing with officers who can't or won't do their jobs properly: we vote them out. They usually quit afterward, but that's better than dealing with the situation you're dealing with.

  5. #5
    Jim M.
    Firehouse.com Guest


    The situation you describe is unprofessional - no matter if you are career or volunteer. The only way to stop it is to stop it fast and hard. The moment someone in your presence starts to complain/gossip about Joe, you should say "That's a matter you should be discussing directly with Joe and not with me. Please don't discuss private personnel issues in public." And then walk away. Most of the time someone is just being thoughless, they just don't know any better. You've put them on notice. Will you lose a friend? Well, if someone gets so bent out of shape by this remark that they croos you off their social calendar - were they ever a friend to start with?

    On the command issue, where's the Chief? Ask him/her to clarify the chain of command and ignore orders from the people NOT in command. You also might try a direct question to both of these people in a non-emergency setting "Do the two of you realize how much confusion and stress you cause the rest of us because you're not working as a team? How about the two of you alternate in being God!" A little bit of humor goes a long way and may make them aware of something that they are blind to.

    Snake - ignoring problems never makes them go away. It just makes the pain last longer.
    - - - - - - - -
    Jim M.

  6. #6
    The Snake Man
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Very true Jim,
    You make a good point. I will take your advice. One on one. Thanks Jim

    The Snake Man!
    Keep it above the water line!

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Sounds like your guys have no concept of what a command structure is. Command is used to coordinate the chaos, not create it. The first one on scene is the IC and if a higher officer arrives, Command can be transferred (after a briefing).

    I agree with the others that if your in a department that appoints or votes on your officers, then vote them out or don't reappoint them. there is something else that may help also;

    In our department we have what is called an Efficiency Vote every 6 months. You get a roster and there is a "yes" or "no" next to each name. In January and again in July you vote as to whether or not a member is efficient.

    You can vote "yes" meaning the member is fine and that's it. If you vote "no" for any member, you have to state the reason on the back of the ballot, and then sign your name.

    We have two weeks to vote, and we place our ballots in a locked box at the station. After the two weeks, the officers of the department get together and view the ballots.

    Any member that receives a "no" vote for any reason is sent a letter by the secretary informing them of why they received a "no". If the member continues on the wrong path, they will probably not survive the second go around. If anyone recieves enough "no" votes to where it represents 20% of the total votes cast, they are usually asked to leave.

    Just my 0.02

    Be safe


  8. #8
    David Hardinger
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Your problem seems to be the lack of a clearly defined Chain of Command. Your department needs a written SOP which clearly spells out the Command Chain in all situations. I am 1st Assistant Chief in a small volunteer department. Our SOP's spell out who is in command and their responsibilities from the Chief, down thru the Assistant Chiefs, Captains, Lieutenants, Engineers and even includes a category called "Acting Officer In Command". This last category is used whenever it is anticipated that an officer may not be available to cover a given time period (usually as the result of an illness, vacation schedule conflicts, etc.). The Acting Officer position is almost never utilized, but the point is that it is an option that is available to our command organization and since it is an SOP, our members are all aware of it.

    An emergency scene cannot tolerate two incident commanders. It is not only inefficient and counterproductive, it is dangerous to the firefighters. Though your two officers may be well intentioned, it may only be a matter of time before their conflicting orders place firefighters at risk.
    It takes a long time to develop SOP's but havi ng a playbook that everyone is familiar with is well worth the effort. Our original SOP book was developed over 15 years ago and is constantly being updated, added to and refined. It is the first item that a new member receives from us when he joins up.

    Take care and be safe out there
    Chief 5601

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    The truth shall set you free. Don't fool around the rest of you need to ban together and let the both of them know enough is enough.

  10. #10
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We had this problem, almost exactly, the only difference was that the two officers we not 'buds' and their conflicts only intensified away from the emergency scenes. They way we solved this problem was at our elections last year by restructuring our command structure (voted one of them out of office). Did this really help ? - sorta, the one that remained an officer has become lack in his duties & if he don't see this soon he may meet the same fate as the other individual. As far as the individual voted out last year, he still shows up to calls when available to do such with a better attitude.

    As far as 'who is in command' you SOG's should make that point clear to everyone operating on scene (including the officers). If you are having a problem - critique the calls at your next meeting with your most senior officer present - whether or not he/she was there. Don't hold back and tell it like you saw it and see what reactions you get. Alot of our problem was that our Chief was not aware of our problems last year because he was not at the response that our problems occurred - however the critiques brought out good and bad, allowing him to see the problems.

    Sorry I rambled a bit on this issue

    Good Luck is all I got to say in closing - Tad

    Firefighter/Paramedic in Northwest Pennsylvain... Stay Safe

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