Hook and Irons

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.

photo:  John Cetrino

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.

 

Stay safe,

George

www.hookandirons.com


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101 Rules for the New Firefighter April 10 2013, 92 Comments

 

1.  When working at a new house for the first time, shut-up, work hard, and pay attention.  I can promise you that everyone is paying attention to you.

2.  The young firefighter knows the rules, but the old one knows the exceptions.

3.  Let the tool do the work.

4.  Be like a duck.  Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath.

-Michael Caine

5. "Twenty-five years from now you will be more disappointed by the the things that you didn't do than the ones you did."

-Mark Twain

 

6.  Don't make a scene and never disrespect your brother.

7.  Never take the seat that faces the television when sitting at the dinner table.

8.  When in doubt, take a halligan.

 

9.  Two hands.  Two tools.

                    -Mike Ciampo

10.  Never claim to be what you're not.  Time reveals all things.

11.  If you don't know what you're doing, say so.

12.  When approaching a fire scene, it is imperative to slow down three blocks before arrival.

13.  Suck it up.

14.  You shouldn't worry when the guys make fun of you.  You should worry when they don't say anything at all.

15.  Give Credit.  Take the blame.

16.  Never turn your back on the fire.

17.  When things go wrong, don't go with them.

                                                      -Elvis Presley

 

18.  Always show up to work at least a half-hour early.  There is no better gift you can give to guy or gal your relieving.

19.  Never trust the hand lights on the truck.  Buy your own.

20.  Don't gloat.  Don't brag.  The guys will do it for you.

21.  Take pictures often.

22.  Seek out the busiest units and the best officers.

23.  Drink coffee.

24.  Don't tell war stories to non-firefighters.  No one thinks its as exciting as you do.

25.  Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.

                                                   -Aesop

26.  Don't be so eager to get off probation.  The time you spend riding backwards will be the most fun you have in your career.

27.  Never be the last one to the truck, or the sink.

28.  Be the last one to bed.

29.  Don't be afraid to fail

30.  Drill.  Drill. Drill

31.  Never respond to criticism in an e-mail.

32.  Surround yourself with smart people.

33.  Maintain a healthy fear of this job.

 

Windsor building fire

34.  Stay committed to being a life-long student of the fire service

35.  Share your ideas and observations.  You never know it could save someones life.

"I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow."

                                                                       -Woodrow Wilson

36.  Learn to cook at least two great meals.

37.  Read John Norman's book, Fire Officers Handbook of Tactics

38.  One fire sticker on your car is more than enough.

39.  Don't complain about how many calls you had last night.  No one cares.  Least of all, the people that are working 9 to 5 jobs while you're napping.

40.  Have pride in your department, but more for your station.

41.  Be precise.

42.  One of the best ways to learn is to teach--even if its teaching what you just learned.

43.  Don't panic.

44.  Befriend the driver.  You won't get anywhere without him.

45.  Go down fighting.

46.  If you're carrying more than one knife, you're a moron.

47.   Be careful what you put on paper or e-mails.  You can't take it back.

48.  Don't scribble in the logbook.

49.  Learn how to swim.  You don't want to be the guy that can't go near the water.

50.  When you're a guest at a house (on overtime or just there for the day), follow their rules.

51.  Offer to help before you are asked.

52.  The phone and the doorbell are always for you.

53.  Just because you have the uniform, that doesn't make you a firefighter. . .It just makes you a city, county, or government employee.  Your peers will let you know if you're a firefighter or not.

54.  When spending money, good quality leather boots are always worth the investment.

55.  Never call out sick on a drill day.

56.  If you don't have kids, Christmas is not as important to you.  You should not be asking for the day off.

57.  The one true measure of a successful shift is returning home safely.

58.  Don't date a co-worker.

59.  Carry two wedges and 20' of webbing.

60.  You will find no better camaraderie than in a firehouse

61.  Don't talk about the other department you worked for.  No one cares.

62.  Participate in a good practical joke.

63.  Introduce yourself.  Don't be offended when you're not remembered.  You're not memorable--yet.

64.  Treat your body well.  You'll be glad you did.

65.  Always have $20 in your wallet.  No one wants to take you to the ATM.

66.  Learn your territory.  Know it like the back of your hand.

67.  When you are out in public, never criticize your own department.  You can make up for lost time on your next shift.

68.  Take the stairs.

69.  Don't show off.  Impress.

70.  When using a power saw, patience, form--not strength are needed to make the cut.

71.  Choose the right blade.

72.  Fire is always changing and you cannot be stationary in your attitude to something that is always changing.

73.  Never criticize a fire or a call unless you were there yourself.

74.  Don't wear your fire t-shirt to the gym unless you plan on giving mouth to mouth.  Trust me, its never going to be the 18 year old     co-ed with sweatpants that read, 'juicy' across her butt.

75.  Be patient with the ER staff.  They can't help that they chose such a miserable career.

76.  Dorms are for sleeping.  Turn the tv off and hang up the phone.

77.  Don't go cheap on the ice cream and the coffee should be from Dunkin Donuts.

78.  Courage is not the lack of fear, it is acting in spite of it.

                                                                         -Mark Twain

79.  You are what you do.  Not what you say.

80.  One of the most difficult and dangerous things to do on a fire scene is backing a truck up.

81.  Pace yourself.

82.  A fellow firefighter who is not willing to share their knowledge is suspect.

83.  Avoid gossip

84.  The common sense approach is usually the best way.

84.  Stick to the plan.  You haven't been at it as long as you think you have.

85.  Follow instructions.

86.  Read John Mittendorf's book  Truck Company Operations.

87.  Attend fire conferences.  You'll see that your department is not the center of the universe and there are other guys that are already doing it smarter and better than you are.

88.  Be the guy that everyone has to say, " take a break.  You're making us look bad."

89.  If your department allows it, invest in a leather helmet.

90.  Always look up and around and read Brannigans book Building Construction For the Fire Service.  If you can't make an educated guess as to how a building will perform under fire conditions, you are putting yourself in danger.

91.  Demand more from your officer.

92.  It is a good idea to carry a multi-tool.

93.  Never defend the liar, the cheat, or the thief.

94.  When your officer tells you to take a nap, it's not a joke or a trick.  He wants you to be worth a damn at 3am.

95.  You don't clean a seasoned cast iron skillet with soap and water.

96.  Shaving your arms is not cool.  It's a good way to contract MRSA.

97.  I'll take the chubby firefighter that can work all day over Mr. February who has to eat six meals, drink three protein shakes, and is no good to me after one tank.

98.  Always eat dinner with your crew.  Your diet is not as important as family.

99.  Never ask the guys to lie to your spouse when he or she calls the station.

100.  When it's your time to drive, always remember that you're now responsible for all the lives in the truck.

101.  The day you show up to work hungover, or sleep deprived is the day everyone is going to need you.

 

I've actually got more than 101, but I thought I'd like to see if anyone has anymore.  That's all for now.

-George

 

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