Friday, November 30, 2012

Company Proficiency or freelancing?

Is knowing your job and going to work without a direct order from the Chief based on a set standard, freelancing or company proficiency?

On fire scenes across the U.S., firefighters at organized, professional, and proficient fire departments go to work with a “game plan” in place prior to arriving on the scene of an incident. The playbook that contains these “game plans” is called a fire ground procedure. This gives firefighters the unprecedented ability to function in needed roles without the incident commander having to assign each individual company a task, so long as the incident’s characteristics do not require a change in the “line up”.  This is a fluid procedure that is not a bible. We want firefighters that can think and make educated decisions, not robots that can read a book. How often is job proficiency seen as freelancing? More than you think.

I am in charge syndrome:

Chiefs often feel that they need to keep their thumb on every company in the fire department. They must control everything from what equipment is on the trucks, to how the hose is packed, to every move companies make on a fire scene. People call this management, I call this dangerous. This micromanagement of fire companies creates a fire service that is afraid to make a decision for fear of repercussions. Failure to make a decision causes situations that firefighters can be hurt or killed.

“Micromanagement is job security for insecure people”
- Dr. Richard Gasaway

A fire department that is heavy on the policies will create situations in which company officers fail to make decisions under stress filled situations due to the fear of consequences from the administration. Chief officers need to understand their role just as a new firefighter must understand his. Micromanagement is a death sentence to a fire department starting with morale and ending with department proficiency. As a fire department leader, you need to be encouraging your personnel to make decisions, learn from mistakes, and decide what they want for their company so long as it abides by the organizations values and mission.

Preparing for the job:

The fire ground procedure should be an outline of the direction the fire department will take when operating on scene of an incident. For example, your fire ground procedure may have the following initial set up:

1st Due Engine- Fire Attack
2nd Due Engine- Water Supply
3rd Due Engine- Rapid Intervention
4th Due Engine- Assist with Ladder/Rescue Company Operations
1st Due Truck Company- Ladder Company Operations
5th Due Engine and later- Report to staging

A good fire ground procedure also states the benchmarks an incident commander should make. Some fire departments have expanded on this to the point of using the fire ground procedure as a step-by-step guide for fire ground operations. I cannot even begin to express how dangerous I feel this is. When you take the ability of firefighters to make decisions based on the situation they are facing, you are setting your department up for failure and possibly worse.  The fire ground procedures should be able to be altered at anytime if needed for operational success. For example,

 The 3rd due Engine (Rapid Intervention) may arrive and the 1st due Engine has a line stretched inside fighting fire. There are multiple reports of subjects trapped. The 2nd due Engine is still tied up with securing a water supply. The fire ground procedure should allow for that 3rd due Engine to become the “search group”. With that change, the incident commander just “backfills” the fire scene benchmarks as units arrive.

Like anything else, if you don’t train on it as a company and with the companies you respond with, you will burn homes to the ground. Organize your thoughts, share them, train on them, and be open to ideas and procedures from around the country. 


Discuss this concept with your company. If you have a fire ground procedure, refresh yourselves on it. Also discuss different scenarios in which changes would be made to the procedure to achieve the operational goals of an incident. By training on these concepts, you create the ability to think outside of a written document when faced with different situations.

I ask you again. Is knowing your job and going to work without a direct order from the Chief based on a set standard, freelancing or company proficiency?

Train hard, remain open to new concepts, and work hard to progress the fire service.  Do you have it?

Chief Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, who is quoted in this article is with Situational Awareness Matters, Helping first responders see the bad things coming in time to change the outcome. You can visit his website at

No comments:

Post a Comment