New contributor Ron Ayotte ups the staffing on Backstep Firefighter as a chief officer.
A few months ago I had an appointment with a Scout who is going for the rank of Eagle. One of the merit badges he was working towards was in fire safety.
Part of that requirement is to talk with one of the fire officials in the community about the fire department, fire prevention and fire safety.
I have done many of these interviews for Scouts. The young man’s last question got me to thinking…
It was “what is your opinion on what it takes to be a successful fire officer?”
Now, this is something that I and many others have answered in a firefighter forum or two… but it was the first time that a teenager ever asked it.
I told him that I had a standard answer, but that he deserved better than that. I asked him for his email address and told him that I would get back to him. While I was detailing my 2006 Mustang GT to enter it in a show, I came across an ad from my insurance agent in the glove box that I read and adapted for my answer to the potential Eagle Scout.
What I came up with was the”ins” of being a successful fire officer. In answer to his question, this is what I sent to him.
To be a successful fire officer, one has to follow the “ins”.
Successful fire officers have to take the initiative… to make the most of every opportunity, situation and challenge that come their way.
Successful fire officers need to have insight. They have to be passionate about the job and serve the best interests of their personnel… even when they feel that they are being wronged.
Successful fire officers have to innovate. They have to think outside of the box on occasion in order to see to what the “big picture” looks like. They should also cultivate innovation amongst their personnel. Not all of the brightest minds in the fire service wear bugles on their collars; some are content with being the grunts and doing the job.
Successful fire officers have to have integrity. They are held to higher standard by virtue of their rank, from the newly minted LT to the grizzled old Chief. They have to meet the needs of the Department as a whole and build relationships across the ranks with professionalism.
Successful fire officers instruct – passing skills, expertise and knowledge on to others in order they become more skilled, knowledgeable and experts in their own right.
Successful fire officers have instinct….it’s the only thing we that we can trust on the fire floor. It’s the memory of past fires and remembering what worked and what didn’t. It will never be put into print or on a power point. It is created through trial and error and the ability to critique yourself after every job, good or bad. No two fires are alike but every flame is the same.
Successful fire officers have to be involved with their personnel. When someone in your crew’s mind is elsewhere, it could be because of problems in their personal life… a breakup, separation or divorce, a sick child, a dying parent, or a diagnosis of a terminal or life altering illness. Lend a sympathetic ear. You may not really get along with that individual, but humanity links us all. If the problem is between members of the company, work to resolve them before it tears the company apart and lowers morale.
In life, successful fire officers have to balance their family and personal life with the professional side. Ignoring one or the other can lead to problems at home and at work.
Ron Ayotte is a 29+ year veteran of the fire service and holds the rank of Deputy Chief with the City of Marlborough (MA) Fire Department. He also works per diem in the Support Services division of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services/Massachusetts Firefighting ACADEMY.
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