Acting Lieutenant

OK, I need some help here.† I’m currently Acting Fire Lieutenant on various line companies in my city.† I’ve been around enough officers to see what kind of leader I am and what type of officer I want to be.† But many questions have arisen during this acting time.

Just a few things for background information.† In my city an acting job is not a guaranteed position, nor is it a promise of promotion.† I could do 2 weeks in a position and get sent back to my company or I could get sent around the city as the replacement for officers on vacation.† I’ve been to a few different companies now and currently try to lay low and not start any extra activities with the crew.

Usually the first thing I do is† see who I have and who I am familiar with.† It is their house and I am a visitor so I let them do their job, or do what they would normally do.† I watch the Operator check the truck and all the equipment and ask questions about equipment if I think something was missed or needs attention and then help wash the piece.

The problem with the acting officer job starts when we get a call and there is an obvious skill area that needs attention,† Or a total break from common sense.† Do I drill on these items as† if it was my own company so we can do it better next time?† Do I just have a word with the individual, or the whole crew?† If I do anything would it appear that I have a superiority complex that would then precede my arrival at any other acting job?

A couple of† examples are:

1.† A firefighter jumps off the truck at an alarm and runs in without his gear and goes straight to the alarm location without a tool, a partner or letting anyone else know what is going on.

2.† Firefighter is incapable of strapping a patient to a back board.

3. Firefighter just does not want to work at all.

My current approach is to ask the guy, in private, what’s going on without being judgmental. † Any better Ideas?

10 Comments

  • Bill Stacy says:

    Use these problems as training at shift meetings/ line ups.
    Do a quick training with the entire crew and dont single anyone out.
    However if something is a major problem address it right away or have a senior man talk to the firefighter.

  • Bill Stacy says:

    Use these problems as training at shift meetings/ line ups.
    Do a quick training with the entire crew and dont single anyone out.
    However if something is a major problem address it right away or have a senior man talk to the firefighter.

  • blancety says:

    Laying low is fine, but you need to lay out your expectations for the guys you are working with. Otherwise it is a guessing game. Certainly you can find out what they normally do, but then figure out where that fits into your expectations.

    If there is a continued issue from one guy, then address it with that Firefighter. The shotgun has it’s place, but it can also ruffle some feathers.

    The Senior man is a great option if your job is set up that way.

  • blancety says:

    Laying low is fine, but you need to lay out your expectations for the guys you are working with. Otherwise it is a guessing game. Certainly you can find out what they normally do, but then figure out where that fits into your expectations.

    If there is a continued issue from one guy, then address it with that Firefighter. The shotgun has it’s place, but it can also ruffle some feathers.

    The Senior man is a great option if your job is set up that way.

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Lay out what you expect from that company on alarms. Ask for input from the company, find out their habits. If they have a senior man great, but don’t always expect the senior man to be up on things. Some of these folks are on their way out, you have to be the judge. Ultimately, you have the responsibility as the Boss, acting or not, of keeping these folks safe and sound in spite of themselves.

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Lay out what you expect from that company on alarms. Ask for input from the company, find out their habits. If they have a senior man great, but don’t always expect the senior man to be up on things. Some of these folks are on their way out, you have to be the judge. Ultimately, you have the responsibility as the Boss, acting or not, of keeping these folks safe and sound in spite of themselves.

  • Kevin says:

    Laying low when it comes to fire ground expectations is never good. Because when your company fails you will be put on high. It is always better to work it out in one on one to avoid the firefighter being singled out in the crowd.

    Example #1 is just straight up freelancing and should not be tolerated much less if probably against Department rules. Let them get hurt and see where YOU are by THEIR actions. Explain it to them in “Their best interest.”

    Example #2 Find out if they have been trained in strapping a patient first. Often poor performance is lack of knowledge. A little brush up, let’s see if we can be BETTER drill.

    Example #3 Definitely depends on how long this individual is going to be your problem. Probably not going to fix this one in a shift. But if the crew is working be sure this person is “accounted for and present”.

    By the way it is your company for that shift or time period. Your Superiors may be well aware of the issues and hoping you will fix it.

    Read First In Last Out by Chief Sulka and Pride and Ownership by Chief Lasky.

    There is two ways to get a bad reputation on this job. On being an EMPLOYEE of the fire department doing only what is necessary to get by. Interestingly enough the other is being a Firefighter an doing your best. I’ll take the second method. When someone is ranting about an Officer with a combination of expletives, look at the source. Often it is your #3 example.

    As an Acting Officer apply the Cereal Bowl thought as well. You maybe up on edge of the bowel today but you may be back down here floating tomorrow, so don’t spoil the milk today. Chase Sargent shared this thought, ” When dealing with personnel that upset you don’t do anything that makes you feel good immediately” Excluding emergency operations safety issues it works.

  • HallwaySledge says:

    I feel your pain. I’m in the same position, although I only act at my own house. I feel that our shift and our companies perform at a very high level already and that our operations on a day-to-day basis are great. Because of that I have decided to take the position of keeping the shift on that same path when I act up. I do work in my own little things, a 10-minute tailboard drill during morning rig checks or stopping at an interesting building to look around or throw ladders as examples. But for the most part I try to keep things status quo, after all, the next day I’m back to a blue-shirt with the same guys I was just in charge of.

  • FIREhat says:

    I have found that a briefing at the table in the morning is useful. This is more than a roll call, more along the lines of a CRM-style crew briefing. I highlight what I want them to do in certain situations and what they can expect from me. For example, I might tell them that I will try to get a three-sided view if we’re first-in and not to follow me with the nozzle unless I tell them too.

    On calls I see little things that I just have to correct in real time (checking vitals before putting O2 on a cardiac patient is a pet peeve) and if there is a KSA deficiency then we’ll talk about it afterward. The key for me is to keep it conversational. I’ll just start talking about the call and what was done and segue into how I used to do it when I was a firefighter (which happens to be different from how they did it).

    Remember, all you are responsible for as a covering or acting officer is the company’s performance on that day. You are not responsible for their proficiency next shift or their history last shift. Imparting knowledge is a great thing but trying to assume responsibility for more than your share will drive you nuts.

  • truckie431 says:

    You should use the time at morning line-up or the kitchen table to let the crew you are responsible for know of your basic expectations for that shift/day. Just make sure that these expectations you are requiring these folks to follow are in compliance with the law, department SOP’s, and department/company rules and regulations (as well as a little common sense). And make sure each member understands what is expected of them before you adjourn and start your day.

    For example, whether the crew that day usually wears their gear or not on ‘routine’ calls (alarm bells), you need to let them know that today they will wear the appropriate PPE and bring the assigned tools on EVERY call.

    If, after you let them know how you want them to operate, there is an issue with a crew member, then you need to address it as soon as possible to reiterate how you want things done while YOU are there. If it’s a training issue, that can be handled fairly easily with a short ‘issue specific’ drill. If it is obviously an attitude issue, you may need to notify the Battalion Chief (or next highest person in your chain of command per your department’s SOP’s).

    At the same time, you need to find out how the members normally operate, not only on calls, but around the station. Most companies have some sort of ‘reputation’ already of either being a knowledgeable, aggressive crew or just the opposite. Do they already have a ‘schedule’ for daily activities (housework, drills, admin, dinner, etc)? You should go to the senior member on the shift and ask him/her what the plan for the day is. If they don’t mention something you would like to do (training for example) then ask them if it’s ok to add it to the list. Asking may be welcomed a little more than ordering. That, however, doesn’t mean it can’t be ordered if they tell you to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

    Just remember, however you decide to handle it, your actions need to be fair and ensures that everyone goes home at the end of the shift.

    Stay safe.

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Marques Bush

Firefighter Basics launched in February 2009 after Founder/Editor Marques Bush was looking for a way to express himself and share his experiences with brother and sister firefighters. Shortly after founding the site Marques spoke with several trusted friends and ask them to come on board and contribute also. Firefighter Basics is a dedicated group of firefighters who strive everyday to practice what they preach about Training, Safety, and Tradition.  We can be reached at firefighterbasics@gmail.com

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