Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

Looking to save jobs and dollars, improve safety, combat complacency, and improve flexibility? Flatten your organizational chart and get rid of the Engineer rank. Instead, train all to drive and pump, pay the driver o' the day a little more for the additional responsibility, and avoid needless testing, uniform, and personnel moving costs.

Somebody's playing the fool behind the wheel? Forget formal discipline, put the other guy behind the wheel for rest of the shift, and alter their pay codes accordingly. That stings both the pride and the wallet of the offender. It's a low-cost way of letting him know you're serious without making a mountain of a molehill. Just make sure you do so appropriately -- to correct poor driving behavior -- not something unrelated.

Somebody's distracted today or just sick of driving? Let the guys swap places. Bargain a clause that gives the senior man at least 6 months of drive time per year, and the junior man 4 months. The other two can be assigned at the Lt's discretion. There are other ways to share driving pay equitably. Find one that works for you. As a bonus, this makes duty trades easier, and should be safer too.

Raise standards and improve safety by making all personnel obtain a CDL before operating fire apparatus. High reliability organizations cross train their personnel. Teams with deep benches perform better in the playoffs. We should follow their lead as better driving skills ought to help reduce traffic-related casualties, the second leading cause of duty death and injury.

Make the CDL a pre-hire requirement to test, and we'll get candidates with some dedication (or they wouldn't have borne the cost), some job-relevant experience, or both. This cost-shift improves screening quality and cost-effectiveness. In turn, service quality improves at no additional cost to the department.

There was a time when the Engineer rank was necessary. That time passed long ago. Manufacturing quality is better now than ever before, while vehicle complexity has grown. Specialized technicians have replaced Engineers in apparatus maintenance, restricting the skill base of the rank. The narrower the job description, the narrower the vision of the job. This encourages both tunnel vision and complacency as it reduces the range of worker expectation. We should face these facts and stop lecturing firefighters not to become lever-pullers when they make Engineer. To eliminate lever-pullers, eliminate the rank and incentive structure that creates and retains them. More preaching won't get it.

Finally, we should recognize that successful service firms have flat structures and we're a service provider. We should take that to heart too, and bid farewell to an obsolete rank.

Views: 425

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

You know Brian you seem to speak of the driver/engineer rank with some bit of anger by what i can only guess ( I could be wrong ) is some bad experiences in your past, but please hear me out. The driver position like the paramedic's, line officer's and chief officer's are filled by people who decide to train study and test for those positions. The people also accept the responsibility that comes with the position. These people are often legally responsible for their actions and decisions. Making people act in a position that they don't want to is absurd. Not having a adequate training and testing process is absurd. Not having a continued training process is absurd. People are so quick to take the actions of a few and translate in blanket form as a defining attribute of an entire group. Take caution in this line of thinking. Its easy to arm chair QB as we see every day. Its easy to blame someone else for a departments lack of leadership. Why don't we do the same with the company officer position. In reality they (CO's) make a simple decision on initial actions. They follow policy written by someone else right ???? Its a rule book. Most can read right???. In the paramedic ranks cant we just use the flow charts to treat people. Don't cardiac monitors have diagnostic features that print out the type of cardiac problem the PT is having? I know they do because I have read them out (like I know what I'm talking about) to the PM's all I need is a flip chart to tell me what dose of what drug delivered what way right ????? All of these are crazy. There are all kinds of things that can go wrong in all ranks and their responsibilities. learning these and learning the corrective actions comes with time, training and mentoring. As soon as you remove the craftsmen from the craft it becomes a hobby. Your taxpayers deserve and expect craftsmen. This profession has built the reputation of going above and beyond, it saddens me when I hear of those amongst ranks that would turn their noses up at those who work to get you there safely quickly and to preform all the functions of the position quickly professionally. It saddens me when we "eat our own" by pounding your chest saying my job is more important than yours (in station banter is great though ha ha). I guess that your next step is to reduce staffing and response levels to structure fires, to make acceptable response times to calls longer all with the reasoning that "most of the time its not an emergency". Stop trying to promote off the backs of those you work with for the all mighty dollar. You spent a lot of time thinking about how to cut, how bout spending the same time thinking about getting educated on how the fire service works to its best potential and how to educate the public to understand it. Stay safe.
-Brian, I have been advocating this for some time. Train everyone to understand hydraulics and to drive the apparatus. Having the driver as a tested promoted rank is unnecessary bureaucracy when everyone should be able to do the job.
-Unfortunately Ian I disagree with you, I think that driving should be a position and not a promoted rank. Everyone should be able to do this job.
A cookie cutter approach is exactly the opposite direction to be taken. Its like using particle board to make cabinets. Sure it looks nice but it wont stand up nor last like real wood. This approach will work on a small scale for a short time until the worst happens. 99% of the time our bread and butter jobs get handled but when the serious oh SH*T call comes in people die. You are promoting a system to handle the run of the mill stuff not the what if's not the jaw dropping butt puckering scenes. You both are entering the bean counter lawyer based system that will destroy the fire service and its can do attitude. Please do not speak of the new apparatus and computer based pumping systems. All technology will fail at some point. Please don't shrug off the responsibility to rest with a computer chip or electrical switch. I have had failures with these systems and I have had success with the systems. We work in a world of unpredictable circumstances compounded by human involvement (good or Bad). U can't base a model on a standard service company model, not when lives are at stake. Stay away from my department, family and friends with this plan of yours. Thanks

Michael Bricault said:
-Brian, I have been advocating this for some time. Train everyone to understand hydraulics and to drive the apparatus. Having the driver as a tested promoted rank is unnecessary bureaucracy when everyone should be able to do the job.
-Unfortunately Ian I disagree with you, I think that driving should be a position and not a promoted rank. Everyone should be able to do this job.
Ian,
Sorry but no, I don't have any anger or bad experiences from my time driving. In fact, it wasn't until after my promotion to Lt that my department got the Engineer rank. Until then, we'd had the system I adovcate -- except that we didn't recognize the additional responsibility of driving with a pay increase. The way I see it, driver pay is the appropriate solution for all parties -- City, Union, workers -- for several reasons, but I want to keep this short. Let me know if you're interested and I can discuss them later.

As for the computerized pumps, while I'm not opposed to further developing that technology, I'm not comfortable with what I've seen from it so far. My argument is not based on computerization, just straight-up manufacturing quality, which has improved considerably over the decades. Also, relying on a computer isn't skill-work for anyone but the programmer. For the firefighter it just further dumbs down the job, something I oppose. My goal is to make every firefighter a driver-operator who can manage a manual pump panel like the ones I used for my first twelve years on the job. Sometimes low-tech is better -- but only in the hands of a skilled worker. Get rid of the rank and we get rid of a hiding place for those who don't want to acquire the skills needed to keep all safe. It's that simple.
Michael,
Thanks for the support. I certainly appreciate it.
Regards,
Brian

Michael Bricault said:
-Brian, I have been advocating this for some time. Train everyone to understand hydraulics and to drive the apparatus. Having the driver as a tested promoted rank is unnecessary bureaucracy when everyone should be able to do the job.
-Unfortunately Ian I disagree with you, I think that driving should be a position and not a promoted rank. Everyone should be able to do this job.
"Get rid of the rank and we get rid of a hiding place for those who don't want to acquire the skills needed to keep all safe. It's that simple."

Thanks for clearing some of the things up I had mentioned. I am relieved a bit now . As far as the "Hiding Place". This problem lies in all ranks and I mean all. It is a institutional issue and should be addressed on a lower level with the individuals as the problem surfaces. When an individual begins to "hide" this needs to be addressed by the crew and and the officer. The "hiding" trait has developed from years of weak officers not addressing the issues as they arise. This has led to policy manuals the size of an encyclopedia set. Creating a blanket approach is a easy way out for an officer but takes away the ability to manage lead and mentor. This process develops teamwork relationships that play out on the fire ground and other scenes in the form of the good, strong, goal oriented, can do work I have spoken of before. here are many reasons that can contribute to the problem ie. home life, economy, administrative differences, work relationships and many others. Taking a blanket approach to an issue does not address the root problem. The problem will surface some where else in another shape, action or form. What ever it may be it will reappear.

Thanks again for clearing some of those things up.

Ian
Ian, No problem. Glad the response cleared a few things up. I agree that an officer's job is to make sure his crew is up to snuff. I just think that having lived under both systems, we're better off without the rank -- it's a systemic improvement for a variety of reasons. Maybe we'l have to agree to disagree on that, but I appreciate your response. Its conversations like this that these forums are meant to encourage so that we all learn. You be well. Brian

Ian Bruzenak said:
"Get rid of the rank and we get rid of a hiding place for those who don't want to acquire the skills needed to keep all safe. It's that simple."

Thanks for clearing some of the things up I had mentioned. I am relieved a bit now . As far as the "Hiding Place". This problem lies in all ranks and I mean all. It is a institutional issue and should be addressed on a lower level with the individuals as the problem surfaces. When an individual begins to "hide" this needs to be addressed by the crew and and the officer. The "hiding" trait has developed from years of weak officers not addressing the issues as they arise. This has led to policy manuals the size of an encyclopedia set. Creating a blanket approach is a easy way out for an officer but takes away the ability to manage lead and mentor. This process develops teamwork relationships that play out on the fire ground and other scenes in the form of the good, strong, goal oriented, can do work I have spoken of before. here are many reasons that can contribute to the problem ie. home life, economy, administrative differences, work relationships and many others. Taking a blanket approach to an issue does not address the root problem. The problem will surface some where else in another shape, action or form. What ever it may be it will reappear.

Thanks again for clearing some of those things up.

Ian
All Firefighters should be trained to Drive and pump with thier dept. Apparatus , as long as they are quialified to handle it and are trained the same NO SHORT CUTS
Hi all
Down under here in Kiwi land we don't have a seperate rank for drivers. After a FF has completed two years service they can apply to become a driver and start the necessary course of learning and training. There are no set numbers or positions, it's optional, but encouraged. Most take up the challenge, some before others but there are very few that don't. It takes about 6 months to year, as it is a combination of self paced learning, on job training and a two week practical course. They would then need to complete a pump operators course, or may be doing so while getting through the driving requirements. At the time they become qualified they are paid an allowance and put on the roster to take their turn at driving. All drivers on the station get an equal number of shifts behind the wheel. Becoming a pump operator is compulsary to attain the rank of Senior Fire Fighter, however driving is not. SFF is a rank with increased responsibilities and pay and requires a course of study, practical courses and distance learning modules after a minimum of 4 years service. Some choose not to go down that track. I like this system. It ensures that we have drivers who are committed because they have choosen to be there, and provides no barriers to those who wish to attain that skill. It also ensures that those who take the extra responsibility are remunerated by way of the allowance, but attaches no rank to the position.

Stay safe all

Mike D
My Department requires all career staff to be a certified Pump and apparatus operator. In the Volunteer ranks only those who want to become a vol officer must be a operator/driver and those who wish to become career or for the sake of it be a pump operator.

Those who have it for a rank? Is it a bad thing to have someone know the in and outs of a pump/aerial device? I can run a pump as good as the next but then you have some who are awesome at it and you know when the **** hits the fan you have water. The pump operator is a very important role on any fire ground, NO WATER, NO FIRE FIGHT.

Can everyone driver and apparatus? Look at the recent LODDs? This is a skilled position just as skilled as the Capt or Chief calling the shots in my opinion SOMEWHAT. Yes it would be nice if every firefighter knew how to run a pump, but the reality is some just suck at it. However if you have problems with Lazy Engineers then deal with them. This is no different then those who do HazMat and Technical Rescue every one should have an awareness then there are those who are experts in it.

Thats my Canadian 2cents not worth much in the US rate :L)
Driver Operator is not an entry level position, as such it is the department that pays for the cost of CDL, drug & physical just as they will pay to send Co. Officers to training.

So your plan is that everyone will learn how to pick a draft site? Everyone will learn how to improve a draft site? Everyone will learn how to run a fill Engine, water shuttle, supply Engine, nurse Engine? Or, is it enough to know how to make the pump ready and set the Engine pressure to 150 psig?

Almost anyone can run from Hydrants, when the Water Supply Officer picks you to replace a fill Engine that can't draft because they are pulling mud through their pump, you know that; a: Not everyone CAN do it, and b: you have your game on.

I disagree with this on a few points and agree with it on some points

 

on the disagree I think that this job classification is a much needed slot. look at tiller trucks specifically It takes alot of training and experiance to be able to skillfully drive that specific apparatus, being able to drive the truck and put it in pump gear is great but actually knowing your truck inside and out and knowing how to fix something on the fly is something that joe blow on the block is not going to want to learn. When you have a specific rank for your drivers they take pride in that rank and the responsibility that goes with it. In most departments on single company responses the Engineer can fill in as the company officer and gives another set of eyes on the outside in a working command scenario. In all departments that I have been on that have this rank the person holding that rank has at least 5-7 years on the job before they get into the Engineer or Driver Operator classification. In my opinion the driver operator should be able to read the actions of the fire from the outside of the building to know what is going to be needed as well as be able to multi task

 

On the agree side of the coin the Rank itself does seem to be dwindeling to give way to new titles The term Engineer could be replaced with just Senior Firefighter and be a guy who has the equivelant training and time on the job

 

 

Im sure that none of that really made sence been a long day already

 

zach

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Policy Page

CONTRIBUTORS NOTE

Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to www.fireengineering.com/archives.

Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton
We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our policy page HERE. -- Bobby Halton

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail peterp@pennwell.com.

FE Talk Radio

Thursday at 7:30 p.m. EDT

Taking It to the Streets

with

Chris Naum

CALL IN AND JOIN THE SHOW

1-877-497-3973 (Toll Free)
or 1-760-454-8852

Check out the schedule of
UPCOMING SHOWS

Ricky Riley, Dan Shaw, Doug Mitchell & Nick Martin

© 2018   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service