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Do you think a fire officer should ride in the backseat?

Moving the fire officer to the back of the rig, according to FireRescue1 columnist Robert Avsec, is long overdue


By FireRescue1 Staff

Robert Avsec's article, "Better emergency response: Put the fire officer in the backseat," produced a healthy debate among fire service professionals. Moving the fire officer to the back of the rig, Avsec claims, is long overdue.

Furthermore, by moving the officer to the back, Avsec said it would allow them to focus on incident response and command.

If you haven't joined the discussion already, what do you think? (Photo/Blountstown Fire Department)
If you haven't joined the discussion already, what do you think? (Photo/Blountstown Fire Department)

We asked our Facebook fans if they were for or against putting the officer in the backseat; here are some of their responses.

And, if you haven't joined the discussion already, what do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

  1. "If they can't handle the ‘overwhelming’ responsibilities, then they can always step down." – Joe Day
  2. "Pass. A large portion of fire fatalities and injuries happen during transit to and from the incident. Having a seasoned second set of eyes and a head on a swivel allows for safer travel and lookout. A dash cam doesn't give a picture like a front windshield does for size-ups and technology fails anyway.

    “A front seat officer also provides direction on arrival that may need to be communicated with the driver such as placement. Need mapping as the driver? Get the firefighter in the back to open a map book. The last thing we need is another person lost with their head in a computer. Leave him up front leading the charge like any great leader should be doing." – Barrett LaJeunesse
  3. "Here's a compromise. Instead of putting the company officer in the back of the truck and giving him a screen to view dash cam footage from the back to make decisions upon arrival, let's leave him in the front where he can get the total picture of what's going on at arrival and apply that information with what he obtained from mobile CAD, preplans, etc.

    “If it's traffic and audible warning devices that are the issue with the company officer, put screens and audible warning device controls in the rear and let the firefighter in the back assist with monitoring traffic and running audible devices by what he sees on the screen. I have been a company officer for 25 years now and I don't feel that any screen, be it 1080p, 4k or what have you, will give you the necessary view to make sound, educated, tactical decisions regarding fireground operations from the rear of the truck. No screen shows the details that the human eye can see. However, a firefighter in the back can let the driver know that there is an object beside the truck even if he can't make it out clearly on a screen. I agree that there needs to be some reduction in the number of tasks on the company officer while en route, but those reductions can be done without moving assigned seating. I'd rather a firefighter struggle making out details on a screen than a company officer." – Cory Orbison
  4. "I don't know about anyone else, but we only have 11 trucks and only one of them even has a backseat." – Matt Walker
  5. "Depends on the situation. From time to time, if we are running five on my engine, then I will use that opportunity to get my driver (fill-in captain) some seat time and a senior firefighter some drive time. Only happens once or twice a quarter, and I'm the third tailboard so I can shadow my fill-in captain. But on a day-to-day basis ... no, that's crazy!" – Bruce Ehrenberger
  6. "They actually do this for some pieces of apparatus across the pond." – Eric M. Ayers
  7. "This comes up now and again, and one can make a case either way as they often can for one point of view. But mostly, I think we would argue for the lead person to remain up front. It's not an absolute that in every crew the officer in the seat is the most seasoned, yet they often are. For a company officer to help read the response and the scene is going to remain critical. But it could also work other ways. Keep thinking." – E. Mark Baland
  8. "We did this in 1996 in Rock Hill, Missouri. Trained the firefighter to use the radio and assist the driver in the response. City was completely pre-planned and all data was in a laptop on a work table in front of the company officer. I taught a class at FDIC on this idea." – John Kriska

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