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Have you experienced or observed incident situations in which Command Dysfunction was evident; command decision-making has been less than timely, command was not implemented effectively, command exhibited signs of dysfunction or a progressive or immediate melt-down?

Share your examples and dialog on how those deficiencies were overcome at the immediate time of operations and what were the corrective actions, if any after the fact.

How do you overcome inept Incident Command during an incident operation, when you know things are not going right and it’s becoming self-revealing that the commander is failing to command?

What defines the level of competencies and skills required to be possessed by an incident command? (i.e. is it years of experience, promotional progression, training, advanced degree, completed NIMS training, popular vote, appointment, senior member…etc.)

What are some of the signs of "command dysfunction"?

What are the characteristics of a competent, skilled and knowledgeable commander?

What are some of the key skill sets required to be attained or possesed by an incident commander to be “qualified”?

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yeah...every call
I don't want to read into your reply comment too much, however if you feel there are issues within your organization related to command and control; what are you or others doing to make a difference to improve the situation or circumstances? With so much fire service focus and efforts from the NFFF, the EGH campaign and the focus on the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives ( http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/). Doing nothing, will only exacerbate the latent issues and may lead to bigger issues or repercussions. You gotta start somewhere......
Stay safe.
I started to respond with a more professional reply...I ran outta time. I will reply seriously, soon.
Command dysfunction is often indicative of systemic problems throughout the department. In my opinion there is no single factor in any department but rather a combination of training, experience, culture and a willingness to accept firefighting is changing.
HOORAH, Jay ! You said in one sentence what was gonna take me two pages.Chris, the problem I see in the department to which I currently belong(thats another story) is exactly what Jay said. Now, I'm not pointing fingers,believe me, but heres an example. I was Chief of my department from 2004-2007,four years was enough for me. The new Chief has been around for a while,is a somewhat intelligent person,family man- a pretty decent human being. He operates the way he operates..I suppose that I did the same thing. Obviously I believed in what I was doing at the time. I'm sure evereything didn't go perfectly on scene or in the station when I was Chief..in fact I know it didn't.Problem is we have no written infrastructure to follow other than what we were taught or happen to remember. One obstacle that I wanted to contend with as Chief and failed to do was to implement REAL SOG'S.Shame on me.When I show up on calls now..I feel the same way I did before I was Chief...somewhat frustrated.. I observe poor performances in all aspects from handling a simple EMS call for a stubbed toe to a house fire.Alot of it has to do with the other officers of the department. Most are newer and somewhat younger gung-ho guys. Nothing wrong with that,I understand the Chief's reasoning for looking to them for assistance but, it shows when the chips are down and you need true leadership or command. I did my thing for god and country..I've been a member of my department since 1984-almost every year ultra-active.I served in various officers' roles and as I said was Chief for 4 years. I know I left the department in better shape than when I inherited the job. I've got a family now-young kids and honestly am barely hanging on to my active member status. Thing is..we had a garage fire a couple weeks back..small deal..plastics/garbage caught via electrical problem. Attached garage fire went up common wall -melted alot of plastics etc..not alot of fire damage but alot of investigation -kept finding melted stuff -evidence of some heat..quite a bit of overhaul...just to make sure we werent back at night with a working fire. I was on the nozzle of the back up line. I arrived on the second engine in..First engine was probably there a good 3-4 minutes before us. They never got water on the fire until we arrived AND if the chauffer would have charged my line when I first called for water- I woulda had water on the fire before them. Two Lieutenants on the first engine in..Asst.Chief running the call...I'm in the garage..with five guys watching me throw burnt up stuff out into the driveway and I gotta suggest to the Lieutenants that someone should make way in to the attached residence with a TIC to check for extension, that we need to get the observers in PPE to start unloading some of the melted ,burned material out of the garage etc.....Maybe I'm off topic a little..sorry for babbling.They are nice kids..but....little experience and they are supposed to be supervising us..The Chief was out in the street at his CP-maybe twenty-five feet away but it coulda been miles by the way it was handled.
Bruce and Jay are right on the money. I am lucky that my Chief is from the Vietnam era, and is ex-military, so his leadership skills and decision making are better than most. I only mention the ex-military because I think it plays a major role because, after being shot at in a jungle for a couple of years a house fire is not that exciting. I am the Asst. Chief now, but have worked my way up through the ranks. As a volunteer fire dept. we often respond with other departments into thier district so thier chief is IC. Some are better are than others. I think that experience is the best asset an IC has. And the decline of working fires decreases the experience of all of our new leaders, which allows the excitement to come through and the logical thought process to be delayed, especially when arriving on a major fire.
I recently had the pleasure of being IC at a pretty big fire, it wsa at a Landscape Company. On arrival the maintenance shop ( all three bays ) were fully involved, one out building was invlolved and the office building was showing smoke from the attic; also the neighbor's two out buildings were on fire. I was the ranking officer on scene and therefore IC while simultaneously running our new Engine ( first working fire I had the oppurtunity to drive/operate the truck). I made my decision on size up to save the office building which due to its close proximity to the neighbor's house our efforts would save it as well. Luckily I had some very good experienced firefighters on the scene which seeing the conditions told me they would vent the roof before I could assign it, same with the RIT team and exposures.
I guess my point is if you train and have some good experieced personnell then leading is easy. I can say this now because I have earned thier respect, I am not sure things would have gone as smoothly a couple of years ago. But our deptartment has always been one that showed up ready to work. I am sure that this is something instilled in the members from the chief, he has been chief since 1974 when the dept. started.
Jay ,

Well said !!!!!!! There are always underlying factors that creat the problems we see in the command structures and many come from the traditions we have evolved from! Until we as firefighters ,Officers and leaders open our minds and change our attitudes, we will still see the failures that injure and kill firefighters. When problems start we change the commander !!
Why wait for the worst case to happen ! Happens many times in my Department. I have seen many commanders in my time who are clueless in what it takes to operate as an IC, Hey I took FF1, what more do you want?

STAFE SAFE !! Dennis
Signs of command dysfunction are like signs of pornography; I can't define it but I know it when I see it! Seriously though, One of the ways dysfunction shows itself is by the incident priorities getting out of wack. If life safety, for example comes behind property conservation, there is clearly a problem. These problems start with a bad size up, a lack of knowledge, and a lack of communication. As an officer you should pay attention to radio traffic. If the commander is not acknowledging companies, or is having a hard time getting information from the companies operating accountability is lost and life safety is in jeopardy. If you see people operating in your area that haven't been assigned, chances are they are freelancing which means noone knows where they are or what they are doing. Once again accountability is lost. Accountability is the ICs number one responsibility. If he or she doesn't know what is going on, who is doing what and their location they have lost accountability and control of the incident. As a company officer this is a huge red flag. In that situation, pull the reigns in a bit and contact the commander let him know where you are what you are doing and who is with you. It may also help to put a suggestion out there to the IC to help prompt him or her. For example, "Engine 1 to command we are on the second floor with Ladder one and Medic 2 we have a hose line in place but it's getting away from us, do you want us to back out?" Even if the IC doesn't hear you, the other units operating will and can make adjustments to their operations. If things are going really bad, don't hesitate to transmit priority traffic or issue a mayday if someone is in imminent danger.

As far as characteristics of a competent commander, once again you know it when you see it. If the guy or gal has a command presence and the trust of the troops they will help him or her out and vice versa. Someone who trains and is constantly trying to learn something is also a good characteristic. I know what I think of a firefighter who only charges lines or raises ladders at actual incidents, and never trains! Communication is a key skill, not only on the incident scene but off. A potential commander who can't or won't communicate is a liability. I could go on, but this should help the discussion along.
Stay safe,
Chris
Hey Chris,

Hope all is well ! WE had a worker last wednesday and the command structure failed totally from a 360 to accountability to ventilation when advancing handline. One week later the Chiefs had a post incident debrief. The conclusion was as a Chief I have not had a fire this big before ! The fire was a two family 75x35x2 1/2 story wood frame with fire on the second floor rear bedroom C side middle. Fire was venting out the window but was not known because a 360 was not peformed by the IC. Within minutes it was extending into the attic space. The nozzle crew was pushed to the floor on advancing the line and decided to back out due to the heat and lack of progress. It took 20 minutes for the second floor windows to get vented as well as the roof. The roof was not vented over the fire and did no help. Accountablility was started but abandoned by a chief who decided to do his own thing. One FF on the nozzle crew suffered from the intense heat and rehabed and went back to work. Excuses do not cover the failures of the IC or the freelancing that takes place due to the failure of the command structure. It takes constant training and knowledge of the command system and not to become complacent. The position should always be filled by the most competant and knowledgable chief officer. This position is not and should never be a hand me down position because of my turn, has to be filled or he is a real nice guy. This fire could have gone a different direction if not for the smart decision by the nozzle crew to back out. If those in Command do not educate themselves to the required level, we will only continue to add to the numbers each year . It was determened the fire was started by fireworks set off in the bedroom.

STAY SAFE !! Dennis


Dennis;
Thanks for a geat post and insights, your comments hit it right on." Excuses do not cover the failures of the IC or the freelancing that takes place due to the failure of the command structure. It takes constant training and knowledge of the command system and not to become complacent." IF we're going to make a difference in reducing FF injuries, LODD and needless property losses, we need to gain a foothold for consistent Command level; knowledge, skills and compentencies...Stay safe brother.....

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