Flashover Friday-officers

I’m going to complain about officers today.

In the last week I’ve run into 2 different officers that are poisoning my department from the inside.

1st was a central station alarm. The engine arrived first and investigated with all their gear on. (The right way)  The truck shows up a minute later.  The officer on the truck sees us investigating the alarm with our gear on and decides he won’t stand for it.  He gathers his crew for when we exit the building.  He says “I got scared when I saw you guys in there with all your gear on, I thought there might be a fire!”  He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt at this point.  He and his crew get a laugh.

2nd was a central station alarm in a housing development.  Turned out to be a fire in the penthouse.  We were investigating and the officer wasn’t wearing any equipment except for his bunker coat.  No radio, no air, no tools.  So we find the smoke rolling down the stairs and request the box.  I start heading up the stairs to find the seat  of the fire and get a primary done but the officer won’t let me.  He blocks the door and says “wait for the line”  I understand, OK.

So tell me. ..

How do you deal with officers who are more concerned about being cool than doing their job? Besides making smart ass comments like I did.

Does your department have an officer rating program?  If so, how does it work?

Is there an officer training program on your department?

On my department our training program goes like this: “Congratulations Lt.  You are the boss on Ladder 2 group 1, good luck.”

13 Comments

  • blancety says:

    We have no formal training program, nor minimum requirements for courses needed to get promoted.

    If you can pass the test and get made…..you got the job.

    I have a friend that actually wrote up a Chief when he was a Captain, because the Chief wasn’t wearing all his PPE. It didn’t do wonders for him, but jammed the Chief up and made his guys see he was serious about PPE use.

    Of course if the upper brass isn’t going to support that, then there isn’t a lot you can do about the “cool” factor.

  • HallwaySledge says:

    We do have minimum time n the job and training/eduction requirements to take promotional exams but no mentoring or training program. Pretty much the same as anchor said, walk out a blueshirt, come back next day a whiteshirt.

    I have witnessed situations like the ones Anchor describes. Unfortunately that level of complacency exists all over. My department wears full PPE, air etc. on all investigations and AFAs. Our problem is tools. Our officers rarely bring the TIC and it is not uncommon for two or three companies to be in a building investigating and have six sets of irons and nothing else. This is because of the irons are what we mount at every jump-seat and on our Medics. It’s easy to grab them and requires no forethought. Forget the fact we’re in a commercial with 10 foot ceilings and there isn’t a pike pole to be seen. Frustrating.

    In both cases, PPE, tools etc. it is up to the officer at the company and Battalion level to set and enforce expectations. If these are the ones that are causing the problem, well, we can look out for each other and be ready to go to work the right way and hopefully it will rub-off.

  • drillmaster2 says:

    I’m not sure with some if I would call it the cool factor, or the I don’t really have a clue and need to hide behind someone else factor. No formal training program at my place either. We do have some minimums, ie: AA Fire Science. You need to have brass support or life gets abit stressful. We also face the problems many depts do as well, for me as a boss, I need to know the newest way a structure is going to hurt my crew, but others are struck in the 70′s. I’ll stop there for now, just got home from work, could go on for a while!

  • Damn Yankee says:

    Wait one second guys. My department does have an Officer Development school that is 2 weeks in length,quite stressful, encompassing basics and administrative crap and manditory for all officers with a born on date of…roughly 2002-ish, and yeah I had to go thru it. And thats after the written and practical exams and having college courses. Oh and we have a quarterly Officers training (entire Officer Corps) four times a year. But if you think for one second that puts out a quality officer, you’re sadly mistaken.

    The issues you’re bringing up can be discussed but you physically can’t make someone do the right thing…all the time. At some point it has to be up to them (especially an officer) to do the right thing. Admittedly, when I was an acting officer years ago, I would do what we call “go casual”. And no I never got caught by a Chief or by the Dragon. I think I just grew-up.
    To this day, I admit I have levels of mental and physical readyness. And sure that could be tested one day. In this job I not only expect it, I count on it…one day.
    I liken your gear issue to; why we don’t pull a line when we get a 1 and 1 alarm bell. Sure it’s on everyones mind to do that if it turns out to be a worker, but we aren’t going to pull a line unless it’s confirmed. Some officers they see wear of gear as the same issue. Not defending them…just sayin.

  • Damn Yankee says:

    Oh yeah, and Do too well in that ODS and you’ll be back for the next one to help that group of 20+ New Officers “bond and gel”. Do a piss poor job or fail…you guessed it, you’ll be in the next one also. Ok I’m off my soapbox.

  • drillmaster2 says:

    Damn Yankee, you hit on the whole issue IMHO! Doing the right thing PERIOD!, not once or twice, but everytime! I have a probie with me now, first FD job, never had a job yet, new medic even! We only run 3 on an engine, thankfully, I think the way I do about our profession, or he would turn squarely into the recliner generation!

  • Any issue concerning roles and responsibilities for first arriving crews should be outlined in appropriate department policies and procedures. PPE requirements for incidents should be outlined in the appropriate plans, policies, and procedures. These documents MUST be supported and ENFORCED by the company and station officers, as well as top brass.

    I’d be lodging a compliant with my officer, battalion, or other chief about how the slack jobs were hindering the potential life safety and property protection role. Again, enforcement is responsibility of the top brass. If the top brass doesn’t have a problem with what’s going on, your ability to influence changing these attitudes and behaviors will be minimal.

    Another option to change these attitudes and behaviors is using humor (okay, ridicule) to change the opposing company’s perception. Me, I’d be standing at the top of the stairs telling the unprepared company, “Glad you finally got dressed for the occasion. I hope the family didin’t suffer property damage while y’all were getting dressed down there”. Make ‘em happy? Nope. But the point would continue to be reinforced by comments such as, “Thankfully, there was no fire at this alarm. I’d hate to be waiting for tasks to be completed because no one was dressed for the party”.

    After awhile, the pain-in-the-butt company officer will either get his (and his crews) act together or he’ll complain to your officer about your ridicule. If your CO is a good one, he’ll remind the officer that he is also waiting for them to dress out.

    Now you can see why the company officer can be a departments weakest link.

    Pick your battles; however, YOU should ALWAYS be prepared. Do the right thing; the right thing always pays off, even if the road is rocky.

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    You guys are great. Nobody is perfect. I’m not the gear Nazi. I try to be more ready than not. It’s something all together different to call people out for doing the right thing.
    When I get to pretend to be the boss I lay it out there “I’m here for 2 days, just wear your gear so I don’t have to talk to the chief”.
    Freddie; I love the comment. I did make a few smart mouth remarks at the Lt something about glad he stayed outside with the other scared people, the tenants. The incident at the fire, we just walked away and started evacuating tenants.
    The SOP’s are plain as day about this, but enforcement is an issue. Every officer wants to be the aloof friend instead of the boss.
    Let me stop, it’s beer time.

  • firestudent1 says:

    Freddie Bell NO Freakin Way!

  • Oh yes, Grasshopper (firestudent1). I stopped by the site a few days ago and left my first comment. I think I commented on one of your threads. I enjoyed the thought provoking threads and comments offered on the site. Thought I’d continue to stop by and see what the daily offerings would be. You should be able to access my email address; please take a moment and drop me a line. It’s been a great while since you and I have been able to share a cold, frothy adult beverage. We should catch up….

    Anchorpoint1, I’ve always been amazed at how many people in leadership and/or management positions are afraid to act as though he/she IS IN A LEADERSHIP OR MANAGEMENT POSITION. If the policies and procedures specify a certain action or behavior, that’s what should occur. When I’ve been in leadership positions and needed someone to assist me with identifying an improvement item, I’ve been very appreciative and thankful when my potential oversight or problem was brought to my attention.

    Unfortunately, I have to say this again: The fire service is its’ own worst enemy. With a little courage and some strength, we can change that.

  • blancety says:

    “I’ve always been amazed at how many people in leadership and/or management positions are afraid to act as though he/she IS IN A LEADERSHIP OR MANAGEMENT POSITION.”

    Holy Crap….I think we are related. Those exact words have come out of my mouth more than once. Ask Drillmaster2, he has heard me say it.

    Of an if there is any “sharing of cold adult beverages” going on, it had better be a group event.

    Back to topic, I do not understand why – ok I didn’t then I had it explained to me, people refuse to use the authority they earned. I am not saying I am a fan of dictorial management, but hold your people accountable. In fact, ever better, give people your expectations and then hold them to it. It isn’t personal, it is work…..

    (as for the secret that was explained to me – love. Every one wants to be loved, and some feel it is hard to do that and be a leader at the same time.)

  • Annie says:

    Learn from their mistakes and their accomplishments, and become able to do their job better than them.

  • drillmaster2 says:

    I have you say that several times, when you have time there Blancety my friend, ok that was my inside shot sorry bro! Adult beverages= group event. While everyone wants a little love, when did giving an order become a mortal sin, asking sometimes goes only so far. It’s really not hard to be a good leader and still hold your folks accountable. It’s a balancing act, but can be achieved without going to far in one direction or another.

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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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