I remember the supervision books I read when studying for promotional exams always seemed to have a statement to the effect of, "You can always judge how well a department is run when the manager is not present."
Having worked in the fire service for more than 30 years, I completely agree with this idea. The training and competency of your personnel is showcased in times when a manager is not around.
When I served on the Urban Search & Rescue, FEMA, FLTF2 teams, the goal was training in at least two disciplines. This allowed better chances for a member to be deployed since they can fill more positions in the deployment grid. It also benefitted the team since they would have a better cross-trained person with more knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs).
While at the fire station, I always made it a point to have one of the new reserve drivers assigned to my station shadow me during the morning checkout. We always encouraged people to speak up and show interest, which prompted further discussion around as tricks of the trade, getting behind the wheel, manning the pump panel, and other important topics.
It's vitally important for leaders to encourage people to ask questions and get engaged, instead of being a wallflower. It's the leader's job to find and nurture a subordinate who can one day fill your shoes in your absence.
It was always my goal to maintain a strong work ethic. As firefighters, we depend on everyone on the team doing his job properly. A strong work ethic, coupled with open communication channels, ensure things get done correctly.
Managers who lead by example instill these values in their crews. What better way to have peace of mind knowing that things are going to get done correctly in your absence? One of the ways this can be accomplished is by passing on your KSAs to another person.
All new trainees were eager to drive once they had completed the department's Driver Engineer course; obviously, they wanted to get some experience. We would first allow them to drive on more routine movements such as nonemergency alarms and/or dispatches.
The agreement with the other station crew members was that when the other assigned driver engineer was off-duty and it was his/her driving rotation, I would have one the reserve drivers operate the truck for the whole tour of duty rather than me as the other assigned driver.
This practice carried several benefits. If there were no drivers to operate an apparatus once a tour of duty started, the district chief didn't have to send a driver from another station to operate the rig. The person filling in for the day may not be quite familiar with this particular apparatus and would not know the territory as well.
But someone trained from within that assigned station should be familiar with both the truck and the territory. Plus, reserve drivers would be in a much better position for their checkout exam than if they didn't have this type of real-world experience.
Of course, having substitutes step up in times of need requires a lot of preparation and communication. I would teach trainees everything I knew about operating the truck and navigating the specific territory. And I encouraged them to ask questions and engage with what I was teaching, so they would be ready when the time came.
All said, this practice develops a high-quality product (your personnel) and, better yet, a legacy that can be passed through generations of those performing the job correctly.
We all need to maintain a high-quality work ethic. It is reflected in many ways. It represents our department and the patch we wear on our uniforms. It is also important to how the public perceives you. Remember, the fire department is a high-profile service that is constantly under scrutiny.
I would always tell trainees, "I want to feel comfortable knowing that if there were a fire at my house, the first responders coming to my aid would know exactly what they're doing."
This article was written for & published by MultiBriefs.