Working on a few new articles reminded me of our first article for International Firefighter Magazine.
What is command presence? We all know those people that have it but what does it take to have it? Command presence is being able to have other people recognize that you are in charge just by simply showing up. Instantly people on the scene of an emergency know to turn to you for direction. Having command presence is being able to control the chaos of the emergency and exhibit self-control to make sound decisions. This can also be evident in non-emergency situations around the firehouse by the way that you present yourself to other firefighters, your look, how you carry yourself and how you communicate with your crew. Command presence is not control or power but being able to build trust in your crew so that they follow your direction because they respect the knowledge and experience that you have. If a leader lacks credibility, they will not have the influence over their crew that is needed to accomplish the goals set before them.
Every year thousands of calls come in for automatic fire alarms. Many of these calls turn out to be false alarms. These calls have increased because many new codes require buildings to have alarm systems installed as well as many older building being retrofitted to meet new occupancy requirements. Even though many of these turn out to be false calls, those firefighters responding should treat each alarm as if it was a fire. It is a fire until firefighters say it’s not a fire. This means firefighters should respond to the call with full P.P.E. donned and start to form a strategy for fire attack. Many agencies now respond with only a single resource. This means that once on scene the need to call for additional resource may arise if the alarm is found to be a working fire. Treating each alarm as a working fire means that firefighters won’t get caught with their pants down, bunker pants that is.
One of the ways that a fire department is measured is by its response time to calls. The driver of the apparatus is related to this time. With this is a question, are you an apparatus operator or just the person that drives the fire truck? The person that just drives the fire truck, jumps up in the cab hits the start button and floors it to the call. Little care is given to the fastest route or what might need to be done when they arrive on scene. They have very little knowledge of the apparatus and what it can do or what the limitations are. Careless operations keeps this person just steps away from an accident review board. A true apparatus operator is much different. This person enjoys and takes pride in the job that they have earned. This person knows every street in their territory and even the second due territories around them. Every piece of equipment on the apparatus is clean and ready for use. They are experts on how to use each of those pieces of equipment to the point that a malfunction in the equipment can quickly be fixed. This person owns the apparatus for that 24 hours they are on duty and cares for it as if they bought it themselves. As an apparatus operator you owe it to your family, crew and the citizens you protect to be the best at your job.