So You Are In Charge: The Five Keys

Jan. 23, 2006

Editors note: This is the first in a six-part series, detailing the five basic skills that any new fire officer should posses. Johnson will cover each skill in depth, in future weeks.

So you have just been promoted and now you are in charge. You have studied and worked hard to get to this point in your career and now you are going to have to work even harder to earn the respect of your commander, your company and the surrounding company officers you will be working side by side with. Here are 5 basic actions that you can take to ensure success at your new position.

  • First-Do Not Assume Anything! Do not assume that your firefighters, regardless of their stated experience know what is expected of them at emergency scenes. From the medical duties to stretching an offensive attack line, do not assume that they know what you want, tell them. Do not assume that your chauffer knows what you expect of them. Make sure they understand that getting there safely is a priority to you and once you arrive, a good pump operation makes all the difference. And do not assume your personnel know what to expect from you. Tell them how you plan to operate at incidents, what you expect of them and what you will do to assist them. By clearing these issues up with your newly assigned company it will help smooth the flow of operations. Do Not Assume!
Second-Make A Decision! Many new officers are hesitant to make decisions in fear of being wrong. You have experience and knowledge that has placed you in this position, USE IT! Do not be afraid to ask questions and get the needed input from others, then formulate a plan and execute it. If the commander gives you and your crew an assignment, make the necessary decisions to complete the task and reaffirm to him you can be counted on. Make A Decision! Third-Be Accountable And Reliable! This is extremely important to everyone involved at the operations. You must be predictably reliable in operational situations; this is not a time to fly by the seat of your pants. You must also be accountable for your decisions. If something goes array with one of your decisions, stand up and tell the commander you made the best decision based on what you understood you were dealing with. When you arrive as a second due engine at a working fire, the first due officer needs to know you will take care of your responsibilities and not become a spectator. Any doubts in his mind, then you are failing to be accountable and reliable. Be Accountable and Reliable! Fourth-Lead! This one goes hand in hand with the previous action, but it is not the same. As the company officer you are expected to lead. Remember, if you do not someone else will and you might not like where they lead you. At every operation you should confirm with command your task, take your company with protective gear in place and the necessary tools to complete the task. Ensure your company understands the assignment and get the job done. Do not let your company become eyewitnesses to the operations. Lead! Fifth-Work Side By Side With Your Company! Do not ask your company to do tasks you would not do yourself. The number one way to promote animosity is to assert you are in charge, assign a task and then find your way to the recliner or water cooler. You will find that your company works harder for you when they know your working with them. The most valuable time an officer can spend with their company is during operations and doing it in a fashion that promotes company pride. Work Side By Side With Your Company!

If you are finding yourself continually telling others you are in charge, you're probably not. Using these five basic actions will assist you as a new company officer. No company officer has all the answers, so don't. Keep your eyes and ears open and use your mouth when needed.

So you are in charge now, good luck and be safe!


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