Riding positions are an important factor in the successful outcome at a structure fire. Before I get into this realize I do understand that some may be performing all four seat positions based off of your staffing. My hat is off to you if you are the firefighter that drives the truck, throws it in pump gear, pulls the line and charges it and waits for others to get there. I have never had to do that. I have only heard stories and could imagine how difficult it could be. Recently I sat through a presentation that reinforced tactical discipline. This essentially means that everyone has a responsibility and they should stay focused on specific tasks and responsibilities, even in the absence of policy or direct orders. Think of a small army unit engaging the enemy on the battlefield. Each soldier is responsible for a certain area. They all have a select zone of fire they are responsible for. If they see a threat in another zone and take their eyes of the zone they are responsible for, it could be fatal for them or their fellow soldiers. These same principles can be carried from the battleground to the fireground.
Assigning specific riding assignments based off seat position is extremely important. It allows for firefighters to understand a clear set of expectations when they arrive on scene of a fire. There is no question on who will be responsible for what. It also ensures that the tasks that are needed to be performed are accomplished and we all stay in our zone of fire. When I was assigned to an engine company we had very specific assignments; who pulls the hose, who grabs the irons and so forth. I have heard several officers and firefighters say that depending on what side of the truck the fire is on determines who gets the nozzle. This is especially the case when you are riding four on the engine. Obviously, if it three or less, you may be doing much, much more. I filled in to act on another engine in another battalion one night. When I asked the crew that was there how they handled the assignments, they told me whatever side the fire is on that’s who pulls the line. I should have known better but I went with it. I figured it would be a slow night and didn’t put myself in the right mindset. On my engine I was used to pulling up on a working fire and the firefighter behind the driver pulled the line while the other firefighter grabs the irons and goes to force the door and back the nozzle firefighter up. So, as it would happen at the station I was filling in at, we catch a working fire. We arrive on scene with a good working fire. The line gets pulled by the firefighter on the side the fire is on. We stretch to the door and go to force entry, but guess what we didn’t have, the irons. The firefighter did the shuffle back to the truck and threw about two to three doors open before getting the irons. In the environment we work in, especially at 0300 in the morning when you may have a fuzzy head, it helps to have something in place. Sure the line made it to the door that night, but because there was no set plan on who grabs what, something was missed. Am I at fault or to blame for this? In my eyes yes, ultimately I was. I should have ensured they knew what I expected and reinforced the importance of who will do what when we are called upon. I should have ensured there was going to be some tactical discipline that night. This is a small example of what I am getting at, but had I or the firefighters on the truck realized the importance of riding assignments and seat positions that night we would have been more prepared when we arrived to our battleground.
I realize this is nothing groundbreaking, but it is a way to ensure everyone on the apparatus, whether engine, ladder or rescue is prepared and fully understands what is expected of them when they arrive on scene. Again, depending on your staffing it may be a difficult thing to do, but if you have the ability to do it, it will ultimately make you more prepared and successful. More importantly, don’t just have it sit in a policy or manual somewhere. Apply these skills based off of your seat position in training until they becomes muscle memory.