It is getting to be that time of year. I don’t mean summertime; I am talking about conference time. Thousands converged on Indianapolis about a month ago, the South Carolina Firefighters Conference in Myrtle Beach is just around the corner, and there is also host of other conferences across the country that cover everything from extrication to ventilation. The training and networking at these conferences cannot be duplicated and it places a great deal of information at the fingertips of all the attendees.
While thumbing through trade journals and seeing other advertisements on the Internet I see ladder classes being taught by firefighters from the FDNY, fire ground size-up by seasoned veterans from Boston, and ventilation techniques being taught by some experienced “Truckies” from Philadelphia. There may also be a panel discussion conducted by highly revered fire chiefs from various departments across the country. This is all very important and critical training. I then thought about why is 95% of the training being dedicated to only 5% of what we actually do?
Now before fire comes spewing out of your ears and your head spins off your shoulders, let me explain. We should, as a profession attend and train at every opportunity with different instructors to increase the “tools” we can use to mitigate incidents and save our own lives. Emergency events are low frequency, high risk events, and training is the way to stay alive, but what are you doing to train for the 95% of the job you do as a fire officer, or mentoring fire officers? The other 95% is dealing with people. Properly managing the crew. Trying to balance the different personalities on your team to work as a group no matter what. Knowing who can do what and how well they can do it. Believe it or not, most people in groups get a great deal of satisfaction by feeling they are contributing to the goals of the group. Maslow has been stating it for years. They may not seems interested because “paperwork is for the chief”, but the reality is most people want to do well and get a level of satisfaction if given the opportunity.
Here are a few things I did (and was mentored to do) to help provide the need for responsibility and ownership of crews I have worked with in the past.
• Allow the crew to decide among themselves on items that impact them such as housework duties, fair rotation of riding positions, and in-house training subjects.
• Train personnel to complete daily staffing and training reports.
• Assign training subjects to personnel who have good knowledge of a subject. This is a “low stress, high success” route that helps build self-esteem.
• Use You Tube to search videos on personnel issues (use discretion and good judgment). Using your department policies, have an open discussion on how the situation could be handled.
• Use situations from other departments, such as the shooting gag conducted by a department in Georgia, discuss what the outcome was for that department and compare it to what your department polices are.
• Allow your crewmembers to fill out their own performance evaluation. You would not use the one they wrote but this allows them the opportunity to see and use the form before they become company officers themselves. It has been my experience that people will rate them selves lower than the supervisors does.
Every little bit helps. The more personnel are allowed to provide input, the more buy-in, the better the results. I am not saying let “the tail wag the dog”, just listen. Most importantly make sure they understand the parameters and they may not always like the final decision. They already know who is in charge; they just want to take part. The key is to balance the training now to have a balanced fire officer later.
Stay Safe and Trust!