101 Rules For The New Fire Officer April 18 2014, 19 Comments
I've gotten such a great response for the 101 Rules for the New Firefighter, that I've written a list for the newly promoted officer. I've compiled the list from personal experience and through reading and conversations with respected peers. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.
1. Be calm. You are now the person who is in charge of keeping your crew safe. Your nervousness and excitement will never cause a positive response in those that are following.
2. Never ask a firefighter to do something you are not willing to do yourself.
3. A promotion is not a reason to stop cooking. You have not attained royal status yet.
4. Have your driver slow the truck down 2-3 blocks before arriving at a fire. This allows you to look for hydrants, visualize the scene, and slow your mind down enough to process what you're about to see and do.
5. A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu
6. Arrive to work at least a half an hour early. If your firefighters arrive before you, then show up earlier.
7. Make your drills meaningful with achievable goals.
8. Participate in your drills. You are not a general. You are a fire officer.
9. Admit your mistakes to your crew. They know you're not perfect. Don't pretend to be.
10. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way. — General George Patton
11. You will see evil. You will see senseless tragedy. It is your responsibility to help your crew cope and understand it. It will also be your responsibility to recognize when they are not coping well.
12. When mistakes are made, take the blame. You are, after all, their leader. Their shortcomings are yours.
13. When good things happen, give credit.
14. Always have money in your wallet. No one wants to wait for the guy making the most money to go to the ATM.
15. Only pick the fights you know you can win. Be decisive.
16. Don't be afraid to bend the rules to serve a greater good.
17. Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. —Sam Walton
18. Empower your driver. He is your strong arm, your life line, your enforcer, and your confidant.
19. It's easy to say yes. A good leader knows how and when to say no.
20. Don't take the tools from your guys. Give your firefighters the chance to be successful. Guide them and make sure they are acting safely. They will be insulted if you take the tool and their chance to complete the task away from them.
21. Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems. —Brian Tracy
22. You are going to be criticized. Do what you know in your heart is the right thing and you will be fine.
23. Always work for the better good of the whole, not what is best for you.
24. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers. They are people who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand. —General Colin Powell
25. Don't take shortcuts.
26. Don't be offended if you are part of a practical joke. Be worried if the guys don't joke with you at all.
27. Be approachable.
28. Remember birthdays, the names of spouses and the children of your co-workers--take an interest in their personal lives.
29. When knocking on a door for routine calls (EMS or otherwise) step to the side of the door. Many firefighters have been shot through the door by startled or scared occupants.
30. Learn to gauge the emergency effectiveness of your crew. Not all crews can perform at the same level.
31. Don't be afraid to ask a firefighter what they are bringing to the table.
32. It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. —Nelson Mandela
33. Seek out the busiest trucks.
34. Leaders aren’t born; they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal. —Vince Lombardi
35. Empower your firefighters.
36. Observe your crew, their moods and their actions. It's not your job to make their bad day worse, but to show them a way out of it.
37. It's okay to joke and play jokes. It's not okay when those jokes are exclusionary or make the member feel like an outcast.
38. Have your own coffee mug, make it a big one and don't let anyone else touch it.
39. Don't get mad when they freeze that same coffee mug in a block of ice.
40. Just because you're behind the nozzle man on the fire, does not mean you are feeling what he's feeling. Trust his words and his actions. Sometimes he needs your confidence to make that final push and sometimes he needs you to recognize a change in tactics is needed.
41. Give your plan a chance to work.
42. Time becomes compressed on a fire scene. It's your job to mark time accurately.
43. The driver does not need you to hit the air horn and the Federal. He only needs you as a second set of eyes and as an occasional navigator.
44. Do not tell the driver how to get to an address. Do counsel your driver if he gets lost and does not ask for help prior.
45. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it. --Theodore Roosevelt
46. Never underestimate the power of common sense.
47. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is man up, and muscle through it.
48. We don't work with calipers, rulers and levels. We work with hooks, pry bars and axes. Fast, efficient and effective is more important than exact and perfect.
49. Stay hydrated.
50. One of the most important jobs you will do on scene is control the tempo of the work that is being done. No one mentions it, but everyone feels it.
51. Wear your seat belt and make sure the guys are wearing theirs.
52. If you have pride in your truck and your station, you will attract like-minded people.
53. It's fine to talk smack as long as it's with your neighboring station. They need to know who the best crew in the battalion is.
54. Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. --Ralph Waldo Emerson
55. Take a structural collapse class and read Brannigan's Building Construction for the Fire Service.
56. In this order; you take care of your crew, your station, then your department.
57. Every EMS call is a chance to study building construction and layout. It is also a chance to recognize hazards from the inside out.
58. Your job is to remove doubt and build confidence.
59. Attend at least one fire conference a year. It will help you stay current on the latest tactics and techniques.
60. For as hard as it may be, you can not let the failures of management, union, or contract outwardly affect your demeanor. Firefighters take a cue from their officers. If you are negative. Your firefighters will be too.
61. If time permits, take a power nap. You'll be thankful you did at 3am when the crew is expecting your best.
62. If your budget permits, buy leather boots and a personal flashlight.
63. If you are on shift for the holidays, it is your job to make that day special for your second family. Coordinate the holiday meal, gift exchange, family time and/or whatever the station needs to make that day the best it can be.
64. You are not expected to know everything, you are expected to be able to find the answer or solution for almost everything.
65. Do not undermine the chief, even if you disagree with his decision or action. Tell the guys that you will talk to him and try to find out why he acted the way he did.
66. Small disagreements should be handled quickly and decisively even if it makes you the bad guy for the moment. Small unchecked problems become larger ones without intervention.
67. Before you commit your crew to a dangerous situation, be sure you've done your best to set yourself up for a successful conclusion.
68. Never write a correction, counsel, or shortcoming in an e-mail, particularly if you can deliver the message personally. The most misinterpreted communications are electronic in nature. Body language, tone of voice, and the necessity of looking the person in the eye are lost.
69. Don't be afraid to write an e-mail to your crew commending them on a job well done and cc'ing your supervisor with the message. This is an e-mail that is always well-received.
70. Do whatever you have to do to stay on the good side of the mechanic. Bring him water and coffee, offer him lunch or anything else that shows him that you appreciate the effort he's putting into your rig. They will work miracles for you if they think you're worth the effort.
71. You should not do personal business on truck time. If you do, don't say no when the firefighters ask you to take them somewhere for personal business.
72. Don't be afraid to give the fire a dash from the outside if there is something delaying your stretch into the interior. It may allow you the extra time you need to get the job done.
73. In a word, the best quality a leader can have is integrity.
74. A good plan executed in the moment of truth, is better than a perfect plan executed too late.
75. A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. —John Maxwell
76. Always leave room for the aerial pieces.
77. Always talk to the police that spotted their vehicle in front of the fire scene. It's not their fault God didn't give them common sense.
78. Now you're in charge. The time for complaining is over. Fix the problem or do your best to explain why it's FUBAR.
79. Complaints go up, not down. Additionally, not every complaint from your firefighters is worth your time or effort. Sometimes they just want to vent or be heard. In those cases, just listen. Sometimes the complaints are personal in nature. Don't be afraid to tell them so. If you try to fix everything, you won't fix anything.
80. In the morning, look at the roster of the neighboring units, judge who is effective and who is not. Knowledge of that on a fire scene may help keep you safe or affect a decision you are trying to make.
81. Buy yourself a custom shield. You studied your ass off. You deserve it.
82. Sometimes great command is quiet command. There is no need to use precious air time on the radio just to hear yourself talk.
83. Make all radio communications clear and concise.
84. Watch fire videos. All kinds. There are lessons everywhere.
85. A new rookie in the station is a great excuse to go back to basics with everyone. Most firefighting skills are perishable and training the new guy or gal is a great chance for everyone to knock the rust off.
86. The rookie should never be drilling alone. You and the crew should be geared up doing whatever it is you are asking them to do.
87. The best leaders create a 'shared vision' that followers can rally around and share in the work to complete the goal.
88. It should be the officer's habit to place themselves at the most volatile point in whatever task they are undertaking; just behind the nozzle, on the roof next to the guy venting, or in the house doing the search.
89. If you are not automatically dispatched with the ambulance to shootings, stabbings, or gang fights, put yourself additional. They may need your help and by the time you get there it may be too late.
90. Strong book knowledge does not translate into strong leadership.
91. Read, Firefighting Operations in High-Rise and Standpipe Equipped Buildings by Dave McGrail. It is, in my opinion, one of the best textbooks for the fire service.
92. When developing your drill, never make more than one large thing that your firefighters have to imagine. For instance, if they have to imagine that the house is on fire and you are going to practice advancing hose, then you will lose them if you make them imagine a lost firefighter. You must actually have a lost firefighter in a structure to make the drill practical.
93. Repetition of one or two skills during a drill is much more effective than practicing multiple skills one time only.
94. Become proficient at communicating on your radio and with your crews while on air.
95. Make sure your firefighters know that on a fire scene you want to hear their observations. You also want those observations to be stated quickly and succinctly.
96. Whenever extending above grade or below grade, you should always have a back-up line in place.
97. Carry webbing.
98. The TIC is a tool, don't forget to listen to the fire, feel for changes in heat and to look past the TIC.
99. Be humble. It will allow your peers to cut you some slack when you make a mistake.
100. One of the most dangerous things you will do in the fire service is work a multiple vehicle collision on the highway. Spot your apparatus appropriately and always maintain scene awareness.
101. Don't spend too much time on the computer, there is usually a much more productive way to spend your day.
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