We have all heard the same statement, " the department starts and ends with the company officer." Whether you agree with this statement or not, we cannot deny the profound affect, both negative and positive,that the company officer has on our companies and ultimately our department.
How we operate and how we train will be dictated by how the company officer lays out his expectations and how the daily routines are performed. When a company officer during a training evolution makes a broad statement to his young crew that "we never enter a building without a charged hoseline", we know what the ramifications will be for the members of his company and the people they are supposed to protect. These attitudes and beliefs will be perpetuated, making our job even more difficult.
It is easy to see how the long term attitude and beliefs will be affected one way or the other by the example set by the company officer. Lazy company officers have lazy crews and working company officers have working crews. I don't know when this got so complicated.?
When the backstep pulls the line off of the rig inadequately and the officer jumps his shit, we have a problem. Is it not the job of the company officer to make sure his crew is ready? Is it not the officers job to ensure that the guys on his truck are proficient at the tasks as simple as pulling a line? Sure the backstepper has a responsibility, but that company officer has a problem with the wrong guy. If that company officer drilled regularly, any deficiencies would have been identified and remediated before they became a problem. It's called knowing your crew.
The way that we get to know our crew is to get to know your crew. That means you, as a company officer, have to invest in your people. You have to "work" with them. That means actually doing things around the fire house and talking. That means eating together and doing regular training drills. It is a relationship and you have to put "quality" time into it. You cannot expect to come in, run a few calls and go home and expect to know who your working with.
In most parts of the country we are fighting less fires. This is dangerous and makes it even more important to drill regularly. The officers of the past had years of actual firefighting experience to lean on and pass on. We are losing that experience and that requires us to train as a crew in order to know what is expected, what our company capabilities are based on available resources and to create those "experiences" that are hard to come by. It all falls on the company officer.
If you ask most companies and officers, there are a few things that really brings a crew together. One, obviously is a good, working fire. Everyone comes back and is pumped up and the stories begin. Second is meaningful training that is inclusive, well planned and relevant. Third is doing projects in the house. No matter what the work is, the crew talks, interacts and generally has a good time while doing work together.
We can't allow our comforts of the job to override the mission. Stay safe and train. Hey, maybe today take off the hand tools and give them a good sanding and cleaning. Oh, and do it as a crew.
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