“The older I get, the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first, a process which often reduces the most complex human problems to manageable proportions.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower
There are several management books that preach about prioritization and time management. The familiar component to every program is being able to break down tasks into manageable pieces. The ability to know where to stop is key in this issue. Most employers have 8-10 hours to drive their employees into the ground however fire officers could literally accomplish that within a 24 hour shift. For most officers the knowledge of priority is split into two categories: emergencies and everything else.
To be effective in the fire department, activities must be put into more than the two categories. The company officer book separates things into three categories: emergency response, preparation for emergency response, and organizational duties. There is no argument about emergency responses taking top priority. Preparation for emergency response encompasses more than just checking out the truck and training. Pre-planning, area familiarization, and hydrant testing/operation are also important. The problem that is prevalent is that at any given moment, the top priority can destroy the best plans. Where an officer can excel is knowing when to let go of the organizational duties in order to make the other two priorities possible.
There are many days where we have run our calls, barely got our training or other assigned tasks completed and the daily duties have suffered. While making a habit of this is not preferential, it is sometimes necessary to ensure your crew has the proper time to recover and prepare for emergencies. Officers that are unable to adapt to the situations presented on a daily basis run the risk of putting themselves, crew, and the citizens in danger.
No matter what, making your crew’s health and safety your highest priority will put you in the best position to do the most with what you have.