So you really want to be in command, seriously?

Command is nothing new in the fire service; however, it has evolved into an extremely intense role requiring training and skills like never before


By Billy Goldfeder

I remember years ago watching young firefighters in volunteer companies race to ride the front seat — after all, the radio, the sirens and the horns were the priority. In career departments, firefighters would want to "ride up" when the Lieutenant or captain had the day off, sometimes for the same reasons.

I did both as many of you did, and do.

Be it the front seat or arriving in a car, the SUV or whatever, having command means you literally own that scene and you are responsible for everyone, everything and anything that can happen.

It's no B.S.; it's serious, serious stuff.

I'm not sure I can emphasize that any more than so many fire service writers have over so many years. 

Metamorphosis
The first interesting transformation happens (hopefully) when firefighters go from firefighter to company officer — and you have to deal with (as Chase Sargent says) the "buddy to boss" stuff. It's a big deal.

The next real interesting transformation (again, hopefully), is when a company officer goes from the front seat of the rig to the front seat of the chiefs car, chief SUV or whatever your command officers arrive in.

Suddenly, you own that scene.

It's a huge deal. You are the bottom line of every aspect and action at that incident. You are command, control, accountability and communication. Your "day" has come. And hopefully, those before you have provided solid and verifiable training that is actually applicable to the job you now own and the massive responsibility you now have. 

When things go right, and hopefully they do purposely, it's a good day — and that is what happens most days. Again, hopefully it's by design vs. just because.

However-when things go wrong on the fire or fire training ground, it can be life altering.

  • Life altering to civilians.
  • Life altering to your firefighters.
  • Life altering to you, which includes your family and friends around you.

Further reading
Take a few minutes to read these two articles and the related reports.

The first is the line-of-duty death of a Dallas firefighter. If you have every commanded (or dreamed of commanding) a fire, absolutely read this article and the reports.

The second is the line-of-duty death of a fire officer during "smoke diver" training. Also look at the NIOSH report and the Texas State Fire Marshal's report.

Take some time to read the articles and the related reports. If these reports do anything, they remind us that like every firefighter, training as a command officer never stops.

Everyday is a training day, from reading, reviewing, studying, simulators, hands on, live drills or whatever, the coaching staff of the fire departments responsibility to take care of their players is never ending — it's a massive responsibility, and it is not for everyone. 

No B.S.
These reports also remind us of our total no B.S. responsibility to take care of our people in what can certainly be tough conditions. But that is our 24/7/365 commitment and responsibility.

While our people operate in tough conditions — and just like we expect them to perform as expected operating "interior" — they must be able to expect and count on us on the outside, in command roles, to do what we must do — to take care of them. 

And lastly, these reports remind us that in 2014, people are asking questions, families want to know, investigations are conducted, and attorneys are lined up to help them determine the truth on how and why their loved ones died.

Command is nothing new in the fire service. However, the defined responsibility, the tasks, complexity and expectations have evolved over the years into what we know as today as an extremely intense role requiring training and skills like never before. 

Need more poof? Seriously?

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