Many aspects of our job force us to be reactive to situations we are placed in. To some extent, all of the preparation in the world can still leave the most proactive officer shifting into being reactive however; the point of becoming reactive means the situation, person, scenario, etc is in control and you are playing catch-up. From a stand-point of fire ground operations or other emergency scene preparedness, the biggest factor that determines which mode you will be operating in is based on your personal readiness. Are you stepping back to give an accurate size-up? Do you keep the “blinders” off so you maintain situational awareness? Have you conducted and participated in realistic training to prepare you and your crew for “Murphy Law” situations?
The examples of being proactive versus reactive on an emergency scene are plentiful but I chose a simple one to illustrate the point: You and your crew have been ordered to conduct overhaul inside a structure that was 25% involved. As you enter the structure you notice several structural members with moderate fire damage but things seem to be stable. A reactive officer won’t pass the information on and will wait until someone cause a partial collapse by accidentally knocking out a good structural support before making the decision to exit the building. In this instance, your lack of judgement and communication left you and your crew at the mercy of the structure itself. Using the same scenario, the proactive officer will make sure everyone including command knows the situation, if deemed necessary to still enter will take the time to ensure the structure is shored up so it cannot fall. The proactive approach placed the control of the outcome more within your control.
The same principle is just as important when considering the way you handle personnel, training, discipline and other duties assigned to officers. If you turn a blind eye to the issues pretending like they don’t exist, eventually they will be in control of your station, personnel and department. Keep the open perspective, consistently apply the size-up principles (overall picture) to your life and job, and never let a problem fester. Many small problems have destroyed good organizations because being reactive leads to many slippery slopes.