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Hey Truckies; Chris and I are interested in your thoughts on the roll and responsibilities of the senior firefighter in general and in a Truck Company in particular.
Are you the senior man, do you work with the senior man? How does he/you perform, what duties and responsibilities does he/you have in the company?
Some departments appreciate and utilize their senior firefighters. Other F.D.'s don't understand or make use of their senior firefighters; relying on only promoted company officers.
How does it work where you are? How are (how can) the senior man's talents and experience be used and exploited to the advantage of the company?
When we discussed this topic, Chris pointed out that this topic draws attention to the "personal responsibility" concept that is being eroded in today's fire service.

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Hey Chris, I thought I would also take the time to post how we doe things in Albuquerque.
The senior man is often viewed by the company officer much the same way as an officer in the military would view and treat a senior n.c.o. (a very high and senior sergeant for you non military types). The officer looks to him for advice or as a sounding board on the side. The senior guys experience and knowledge is definitely exploited to his and the company's advantage. In fact, I had one lieutenant tell me that even the President of the United States has advisors.
In most cases, the senior man is the one that will take on the roll of mentor for the probie, teaching him the finer points, tricks of the trade, firehouse decorum, courtesy and culture.
Just as a major relies on a sergeant to carry out his orders, the senior man doesn't make decisions or policy, he is the company officers unofficial enforcer; the guy that insures the lieutenant or captain's decisions and direction are accomplished. The senior man is the "go to guy".
The relationship to the rest of the company is usually very reciprocal. The officer and other firefighters make an effort to care for the senior firefighter. This is not meant to imply that it gets the senior man out of work; just the opposite is true. John Selka said it best in his book, "the senior man is an unofficial leader, a mid level manager". If you've worked with a senior man then you know what I'm trying to explain here.
Great point, and one well-taken.
The important distinction you make is to note that the success of your system works in concert with the officer, not in opposition, and that the officer realizes that expertise is vested in the person, not in the rank.
In a time where many departments are being asked to do more with less, it would seem intelligent to revisit this issue, and take a closer look at how the senior firefighter can contribute to achieving improved fireground efficiency, thus improving the overall operation of the company.
The informal process of helping to bring along the newer members of the company (mentoring) can be the key contribution of the senior firefighter, and one that should not be overlooked. Think back: how many things have we learned or been shown outside of the classroom that have had great staying power? Sometimes those lessons are the most important.
This issue hits close to home in my own department, where the senior firefighter is frequently asked to act as the "officer" on a three member truck company as staffing dictates.
In this time of declining fire duty, it also may be possible to have the competent senior firefighter be the most experienced member of the company.
I wonder if you're not on to something here with your comment about the initiative being lost. I

It would seem beneficial to me to find a way to recreate that climate in which the best of what the Senior Firefighter had to offer in the way of what is now referred to as "mentoring" could flourish. I wonder if there exists an errosion of personal responsibilty or accountability that is contributing to this complacency when it comes to getting out in front and leading?
-Just a thought.

Be Safe,


In our department the Driver and Tiller man jobs our assigned by the chief they tend to take on this role, in the station the senior member of the two handles the things the office shouldn’t have to get involved with. On a job we split the truck into a inside team and a roof team. The officer spots the truck and then takes the firefighter on the back to force the door and search. As any truck team they must be fluent, innovative. They can VES, enter with the engine of go up the back stairs, circumstances will dictate action. The roof team will may make a grab of a victim hanging out a window, or go to the roof. Our staffing never goes below 4. This crew works independent of any officer and reports directly to command once on the fire ground. It is a great way to build leadership on the company. We also do not leave a member on the turn table. When we throw the stick we position with the fire progression in mind. I know this is against NFPA and I am a big supporter of standard. We meet 1710 and have 25 firefighters on every first alarm who are there with in min of each other. By not leaving a member on the table we increase safety and the effectiveness of our company, in 11 years on the busiest truck I have only seen it repositioned twice.
I like the manner in which you handle the personnel situation in your city, as it mirrors the manner in which we operate on my company. We have also had great success with this approach because the members understand their responsibilities and duties clearly. Our only difference comes at the turntable position, as we do not leave it unattended. I do not raise this point to criticize, but rather just to illucidate the difference in operations.

The development of leadership qualities that can be achieved through this staffing strategy cannot be over-emphasized. The tools and skills that are developed while operating in this arrangement are key to developing our future officers. Personal responsibility is the order of the day, and when carefully supported can pay large dividends in the future development of both the company and department.
I have to agree with the comments above. The senior man should not only be the go to man for the officer but the entire company. He should take the new members under his wing, and keep the things that shouldn't be in the office out of the office. His experience is invaluable to the enire company. On my department we also run a 4 man Truck Company (3 firefighters, 1 officer) and split into 2 teams one inside team/one outside and operate very similar to the way Frank described. Most commonly the senior man is either in the Driver or Outside Vent position when feasible. Unfortunately I also have to agree that senior man position is going by the way side just as Dave stated.
I have two schools of thought on this.
1. At my full-time Union job, some of the senior guys get a lil' cranky when they are asked to step above and beyond their normal daily F/F role. They feel it is the company officers job to teach and take care of the crew. If the Chief or company officer asks them to do it, they cry for a stipend, or ask, " who's fault is it if I show him something and he gets hurt, it is not my job to teach". Now not all are like this, but many are. I see this on alot of the companys around me. As wrong as it is, it still happens. My dept. is having a huge turnover now and for the next 3 years. Out of 15 guys, in 3 years we will have 8 with under 3 years on the job. The senior guys need to step up, but they are reluctant. Most everyone comes to me with concerns and questions since I am the T.O.

2. At my part-time job, I am assigned to a very busy truck. I have been on this dept. for over 18 years. the last 13 have been on the truck. I am usually always the senior man on shift other than the Lt. and B/C. The 'younger' guys are taught to look up and listen to the senior guys. We have 6 on our truck, so we split in many different ways. I am always assigned to outside vent, if we have a new person on the truck, they come with me so I can teach them firefighting from the outside in. It works very well. They see what goes on outside, hearing all the radio chatter and seeing the orginized chaos going on. Then we usually will meet up with the roof guys if they are not down yet. And so on. In the station the pecking order is B/C, Lt. operator, senior man. Most of the younger ones do not want to go to the operator or Lt. with questions for fear of feeling dumb, so they go to the senior guys. We are in essence, their equal and they feel comfortable going to us. This works fine in this dept. Maybe not all, but it does in ours.

So two different job types and two total different ways of thinking. I think the senior man usually has alot to pass on and should be doing that. I am pushing the senior guys on my full-time job to step up, most see my point, but some are still hooked into the stipend thing. We work around them.
Joe, let me apologize in advance for my terse comments but it sounds like the senior men in your job have lost the love for what they do and have replaced it with the love of money. Either that or they really want to be the company officer but for some reason the position has remained elusive to them. It's to bad that they don't want to step up and accept their position as mentors and "unofficial leaders" within the fire service.
As to the comment like "its not my job to teach", here's a news flash, IT IS YOUR JOB. Remember the team concepts and brotherhood and all those other phrases we use. And p.s., the senior man may, at the very next fire, be depending on the very rookie he is refusing to help.
Someone took the time out of their day to teach them, they wanted to participate in this wonderful art we call firefighting, now they must return the courtesy and pass on the knowledge, tradition and customs. We are supposed to be watching out for each other. How arrogant and irresponsible to refuse your role and shirk your duty as the senior firefighter. These are the same men that make stupid comments, blame others for failure or pick on the new guy when things go wrong. Maybe if they had taken the time to teach or at least insure the new guy is prepared there wouldn't be a problem to blame on "that stupid rookie".
I wonder if anyone in a leadership capacity has placed a worth on these senior men, their knowledge and experience; in short, convinced them and the department that they are a valuable asset to the organization.
Michael, you are preaching to the choir here. Some of them were passed over for promotions, some had less than desirable role models while they were coming up and a select few just don't care. But there are a few that do care. The younger guys do ask alot of questions to those of us that care and they are getting the direction they need. Just not by the people one would think it would come from. We do get a very good amount of fire duty, so they get the basics pretty quick. then the rest of the job fills them in on the rest.
Why do some of the senior guys do what they do? Not sure. You are right, it is all of our jobs to teach. I am breaking through to some of them bit by bit. I won't stop either.
A disgruntled employee is much worse than an uninformed employee. We have more than our share. Short fix, they will be gone in 3 years. Present fix, I assign them mandatory indepth drills they must put on for everyone tailored to there strengths. Not the best fix, but it works.
Good for you Joe, Keep the Faith. Slow and steady wins the race; just like firefighting. Something I have always told myself is, "good habits are just as contagious as bad ones".
I like your approach. If you won't do what is right then I'll assign those duties. Maybe, just maybe, you'll be able to teach an old dog some new tricks and the good habits will spread. Keep plugging away Brother. Stay safe.
One of the over-riding themes that I keep hearing as I read these posts is PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. After all, firefighting is our PROFESSION, and not merely our job; I think sometimes it would go far to remind ourselves of this fact, and check our personal commitment meter.

That being said, if you have knowledge, share it. It's everybody responsibility to look out for each other so that everybody goes home. Take the interest and the time to develop all the team members in whatever manner you are able. Not only does our fireground efficiency depend upon it, but as Michael said, your life may depand upon it as well.

Also: negative peer pressure does not relieve you of the responsibility to "do the right thing." Do not cave to the pressure and become complacent. History has shown us time and time again that we DO in fact play at the level at which we have practiced-so do whatever it takes to maintain the level of leadership you can provide through your actions. When we demand great things of ourselves, others will too. It's up to you to set the example, so set the bar high.

Be Safe, and thanks for taking the time to respond thoughtfully to the discussion.

Let me start off by saying the FDNY is an exotic entity. Ladder 111 is even more rare due to the fact we have a 32 man Roster with more than 40% over 20 years and another 40% between 10-20 years. The senior men pretty much handle the drill aspect in the house. I will pick certain topics and start them off on things that I want to do but, generally the senior guys crack the whip. We have covering officers that come in that I swear keep a notebook under the kitchen table to write down tips. FDNY is young. I believe 65% of our job is 5 years or less so, we keep on top of our junior guys so they don't make basic mistakes.
As far as Drills go, I like to ask a junior guy about a specific tool or position and have him start off the drill. From there, it normally takes off with everyone adding some tips. Works great. 111 is a very position oriented company so we constantly hit the young guys on what ifs......


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