In a recent conversation I was going back and forth with a few fellow company officers about the normal stuff. You know, how we can single handedly solve all the issues that exist if they would just let us be king for a day. Probably all the same ideas that orbit all of our galley tables. One of them said something to the group that really stood out to me. The comment was made that their organization would be so much better if the company officers had more power. They went on to say that over the years the power for the station officers to handle problems has been stripped from them and there is too much involvement from chief officers. “Back in the day stuff like this was handled in the station”, one remarked. “We don’t have power to do anything anymore” he continued and the rant went on and on.
I thought about what he had said about back in the day, long before I was a company officer and how the captains had all the power. Has this changed? I think so. Look I’ll admit, from my experience and what I hear from fellow officers across the country, is there sometimes too much involvement at the station level from the chief officers? Sometimes yes. I have thought to myself before, why is this something that the chiefs need to be involved in? I know some of you ask the same thing. Like, I am with my crews every day, how is the chief going to tell me what’s best for them?
So where am I going with this? I would offer to you as a company officer that you have all the power you need! Our biggest priority is the morale and welfare of our crew. This is above all else in my eyes. Above our own needs as officers and the most important thing to us when we walk through the doors. You have the power of influence. You know it amazes me sometimes when I hear or see officers sit around and bash their chiefs or other supervisors around their crew. I have seen hours wasted talking about chief this and chief that. I bet if they were to redirect their energy into properly training their crew, working on their professional development and actually mentoring and being an officer, they would be surprised how much change they can affect in their station. We can see just how much power we have as company officers. Is it a ton, hell no its not. Its pennies, but it’s enough to be able to mentor and train your firefighters. It’s enough power for you to make positive change in them. Some of them will go on to be company officers and chiefs. Is this the example we want to set?
If all we do is sit around the galley table and cry about how much power we don’t have, how do you think our firefighters view that? Is that giving them confidence in you?Look, I get it. I know we all come from different environments. I know we all have different leadership styles watching over us. I would assume that there are some officers reading this now that try like hell to train their crews. To really try and set the example and get crushed by their leadership. I’m not naïve. All I offer to you is be a shield and not a fence for your firefighters. Don’t let the bad leadership get into your stations. Continue to carry a positive attitude. Why? For your crew. Again, they are what matters. Show them that you have the power to come in everyday and even in the midst of poor leadership are still able to train, mentor and coach them. Set your priorities inside the station. They may differ then the priorities of your supervisors. I had someone tell me one time, EMS reporting and Fire report QA is the priority to the Chiefs. That great, so what is your priority I asked him? You just don’t get it he replied. This person was perfectly capable of making their own priorities for their company, they just choose not to.
I am not saying to go full rebellion and forget whatever our chiefs say completely. That is not the message I want to send here. I am saying that we have the ability to set priorities and communicate expectations at the company level. You have as much power as you need to make positive change at your stations. The question I ask is, are we taking the time to make it happen?
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