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Are you in the game or on the sideline?

The success of any fire ground operation begins with your training. In the moment of truth, you will revert to your training and function accordingly, often without the realization that it is happening. It is absolutely amazing to watch firefighters operate on the scene of an incident. It can be a time of awe and admiration as they operate so efficiently and smoothly, just as the incident action plan you had planned suggested that it would…or it can be tantamount to watching a train wreck if your crew lacks the essentials and the unit cohesiveness gained from training and the experience to feed off of.
Relate the fire service to football for a moment, we study our opponent, make informed assumptions of what they might do, and find a way to stop them... we have to have a game plan, a scheme to get our objectives completed. We train all off season and during the week for that one hour of playing time. Preparation time is significantly more than we actually play the game .We have to have all players ready, the game is decided on playing as a unit, we all must execute our tasks in order to accomplish a positive outcome. We fight fire the way we are trained, and execute the plan as we did at practice.
A good crew begins with a seasoned officer, one who possesses the intangible traits of a good leader and the experience to know what actions need to be taken. The rest of the firefighting crew should ideally have at least two seasoned firefighters that can be relied on to follow through and perform tasks with little direction, In other words “they don’t need their hand held”. If your crew consists of four personnel, hopefully there will only be one rookie firefighter assigned to it. And if your crew does, it is the entire crews responsibility to train and” bring up the kid” to be an asset to your crew.
Remember a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, who on your crew is that weak link? And what has your crew done to fix this? If you are the company officer what have you done to correct the problem? Find the problem and fix it!
The best firefighters and officers have a lot in common with the best pro football players; they constantly study the game plans and train hard. They accept nothing less than the best from themselves and their teammates.
So now it’s up to you to decide where you want to be. Is it on the team that plays sporadically from week to week, one which seems poorly prepared and fails to execute even the simplest of plays ?..Or one that has playoff potential, a professional organization that demonstrates proficiency and competence over and over again?

Danny Oliver is a lieutenant with the Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services located at Fort Belvoir Army base in Fairfax County, VA, and is a certified fire officer and fire instructor. Danny has an extensive background in fire service operations and holds a PhD in Utilizing Common Sense, and a Masters degree in I’m not Doing That Again. He is currently working towards a Bachelors Degree in KISS- Keeping It Simple Stupid you can reach Danny by e-mail at:

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