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A common practice in the fire service is to allow firefighters to work in a position that is above the position they currently hold. Every department has a different phrase for this, such as: riding out, working out of class, working up, or even wearing the big pants. As fire officers we have to be sure that those that fill-in for us are capable of doing the job. The best way to set these firefighters up to succeed is to provide them with the training, support, and encouragement they need. First, we have to make sure the individual working up knows what to do. A lot of the personnel on your crew really have no idea what happens in the office. Their only experiences in your office may have been for asking for time of or disciplinary actions. A good way to overcome this is to have them “shadow” you a shift or two before they assume the duties. Secondly, we have to provide them with the support that they need to meet the organizational goals. One of the worst things that can befall an individual working up is to give the impression to others that they do not have a clue. A method that I use involves a three-ring binder full of important information, shift calendars, scheduled vacations, and contact numbers. It becomes a “one stop” resource for use if needed. Finally, we must encourage our crew members to seek promotions and continue their education. A big emphasis placed on continued education. Sometimes it feels like the firehouse is a place where people come to rest from their other jobs. Help your crew use any down time to train or pursue a degree. There are countless opportunities for degrees online in a variety of fields. The fire service should not be a terminal career path, and we often do a very poor job of preparing our brothers and sisters for life after the fire department. A great comment on your ability to be a company officer is how your crew performs when you are gone. Crews should know their assignments, be able to identify who is in charge, and complete the task assigned to them.

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