As the shift commander becoming self-aware of the culture that you have allowed to geminate is the hardest pill to swallow in the fire service. I was taught to be constantly aware of my surroundings at all times. As the command officer of the shift have you started to see a lack of comradery, a constant exodus to the other shifts or crew leaving the department, or only seeing your crew when the tones drop? When was the last time you had a conversation with your crew about the job, outside of the annual evaluation quagmire? Maybe it’s time to pull your head out of the pocket computer and carpe diem. Acting today, now, in the present, not waiting to make the change is the only way to save your crew from imploding. The crew is hungry for knowledge regardless of age, seniority, or rank. As the shift officer it’s time to embrace the suck, let’s face it you have failed your crew and it is time to make amends and recover from toxic wasteland that has enveloped the shift. You are solely responsible to put all the puzzle pieces back, to make Humpty Dumpty whole again.
Crew training is the next step in recovery after realization that you screwed the pooch. Getting the crew involved in structured, consistent, and engaged training; this does not mean each shift needs to have two hours of training, start small and grow with consistency. Start with a drug of the day for EMS, do some B.I. to get the crew familiar with buildings in the response area, or review a policy or procedure. Start with 15-minute trainings and work up to bigger activities being flexible with the dynamics and didactics. Crew training is not rocket science; its fire science, lean on the experienced senior firefighter when needed, those individuals are the greatest resource for training development.
Providing adequate communication is also key to undoing the mayhem that has riddled the dynamics of the shift. Clocking in each shift to be immersed in mindless scrolling on the pocket computer, failing to communicate with the off going shift on the information that is necessary to carry out the mission of the day is a blatant failure of unacceptable proportions. We check our egos and feelings at the door every shift how bout we check the phone at the kitchen table? Put it down and engage in the time old tradition of verbal communication with like-minded peers with common goals. Conveying information to the rest of the crew is essential to the success of the shift. If your crew is getting more information from another shift on the day to day operational changes. You have no one else to blame but yourself.
Airing of grievances is an essential part of understanding of when you screwed the pooch. It’s the most uncomfortable conversation the shift officer must have individually with each crew member. This is not the conversation that happens once a year during the annual evaluation. Conversations need to be held frequently in the work place between the shift commander and the line staff of the shift. Blindly going forward without a check and balance is a disaster waiting to happen, on the fire ground or the next EMS call. Don’t be the leader with your eyes wide shut to the mayhem you cultivated.
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