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When do chief's respond?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by captnjak View Post
    I'm still confused as to why a BC would give a company officer the option of commanding a working structural fire while at the same time that officer maintains direct supervision over his own company. It defies the whole point of having a tired rank structure which is in place to manage both strategic and tactical functions in a safe and efficient manner. Training future chiefs is a worthy goal but goals have to be prioritized.
    We have senior captains or those already on a promotion list act as battalion chiefs occasionally. But they do it for the entire tour and do not act as a supervisor in their own company that tour. It is either one or the other.
    FTR, I personally disagree with the policy.

    We typically ride 3 to an engine or truck. The driver of the first-due unit is going to be busy pumping, and the officer is going to be doing his 360 (unless there is an obvious life hazard that needs to be addressed immediately), so you essentially have one firefighter available until help arrives. We are fortunate in that our stations are geographically in relatively close proximity, so you aren't waiting for help for long (or, at all, if you are at a multi company station). Typically, by the time the first line is stretched and charged, your second and third due are on scene or pulling up. The firefighter from the first arriving unit will typically be joined by the next due unit for fire attack, so he'll fall under that officer's supervision. The BC's will take command if they see the Captain in charge making mistakes or if they see a safety hazard, but otherwise the first due Captain will get to run the show if they so choose.

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    • #17
      I don't want to beat this to death so please bear with me. It seems as if you are explaining why it is OK to operate as your department does. But I feel as if you are not explaining why it is desirable. What is the upside other than a training opportunity? Why train the captain as a chief if upon promotion to chief he no longer acts as a chief when it matters most?
      Thanks for the responses so far. You could easily have ignored me.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by captnjak View Post
        ... while at the same time that officer maintains direct supervision over his own company.
        How does that work in a three-man company?

        Even in a four- or five-man company, it would appear to mean that one of the firefighters gets a "field promotion" for the duration of the incident. I suppose that if it's a long-standing practice, everyone has learned to adjust. One would hope that everyone gets trained that way.

        Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

        Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by captnjak View Post
          I don't want to beat this to death so please bear with me. It seems as if you are explaining why it is OK to operate as your department does. But I feel as if you are not explaining why it is desirable. What is the upside other than a training opportunity? Why train the captain as a chief if upon promotion to chief he no longer acts as a chief when it matters most?
          Thanks for the responses so far. You could easily have ignored me.
          Let me give this a shot. I would say there is a HUGE difference in this type of situation between smaller combination and volunteer FDs and larger career FDs. With a guarantee of personnel responding on a larger career FD the only time a company officer would assume command is in the absence of the assigned chief officer. In the combination FD and volunteer world who will respond is never guaranteed. When I was a volly chief I was always looking to mentor my younger officers to try and mold them into officers able to step up into senior command positions. If a company officer had command when I arrived and it appeared they were doing a good job I would ask them if they wanted to remain in command and if so what did they need from me. Sometimes i stayed by them and advised them, other times I did other tasks. This is really not all that unusual. If the incident was too complex or beyond their abilities I would of course take command. With the limited number of responses we made there were not a ton of these learning situations to use.
          Crazy, but that's how it goes
          Millions of people living as foes
          Maybe it's not too late
          To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

          Comment


          • #20
            I guess what is foreign to me is the lack of company supervision when the company officer remains in command. I understand the need to establish command and remain in that function until a chief arrives. Not so much on the failure to transfer command upon the chief's arrival. The staffing of units may play a part in this. For an example, our truck officers have five firefighters working in four locations. That officer has immediate or functional supervision over all of them. It doesn't matter how good they are. Supervision must be maintained. Mostly for coordination and communications reasons. He is also responsible for communications with other units. It is difficult to do this well while serving a command function too. As capable as an officer might be, there is a limit to how much he can safely and efficiently manage to do and how many firefighters/units he can manage to properly supervise.
            These lessons are generally learned at the operations where things go wrong. And then there is an after action review that recommends the department re-evaluate their command and control policies, including span of supervisory control.
            We have more units with more staffing arriving more quickly than most other departments. A rigid command and control system is vital in order to run a smooth operation.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by captnjak View Post
              I don't want to beat this to death so please bear with me. It seems as if you are explaining why it is OK to operate as your department does. But I feel as if you are not explaining why it is desirable. What is the upside other than a training opportunity? Why train the captain as a chief if upon promotion to chief he no longer acts as a chief when it matters most?
              Thanks for the responses so far. You could easily have ignored me.
              I guess I would say the upsides are using it as a training opportunity for line captains (as you already alluded to), but also, sometimes it is beneficial not to have to change command in the middle of an operation when things are already going smoothly and objectives are already being accomplished. We have 17 stations and 3 BC's per shift, so chances are the BC will not be one of the first-arriving units to a structure fire. If the first-due captain is doing a bang-up job and already has things on their way to being under control before the BC's arrival, why not let the captain finish the job? Obviously, if the captain is butchering the operation, the BC can and will take over. Often times, though, the BC is more useful as a Safety Officer and communications liaison. Within the IC framework, I suppose you could say that under the situations we are discussing, the BC is in charge of the scene, but the first-due captain has the option of being in command of operations. He will run the show, report to the BC, BC will communicate benchmarks to the city and take care of the macro-level operations (utilities, red cross, etc).
              Last edited by NCFF2014; 12-04-2016, 09:54 AM.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by captnjak View Post
                I guess what is foreign to me is the lack of company supervision when the company officer remains in command. I understand the need to establish command and remain in that function until a chief arrives. Not so much on the failure to transfer command upon the chief's arrival. The staffing of units may play a part in this. For an example, our truck officers have five firefighters working in four locations. That officer has immediate or functional supervision over all of them. It doesn't matter how good they are. Supervision must be maintained. Mostly for coordination and communications reasons. He is also responsible for communications with other units. It is difficult to do this well while serving a command function too. As capable as an officer might be, there is a limit to how much he can safely and efficiently manage to do and how many firefighters/units he can manage to properly supervise.
                These lessons are generally learned at the operations where things go wrong. And then there is an after action review that recommends the department re-evaluate their command and control policies, including span of supervisory control.
                We have more units with more staffing arriving more quickly than most other departments. A rigid command and control system is vital in order to run a smooth operation.
                If you run 4-6 man companies, then sure you have a lot of manpower standing around without leadership.

                In a department running 3 (including the CO) that really isn't much of an issue. It is very common to pair up companies to perform tasks requiring larger numbers. So the CO can be in command, and assign the Engineer and FF to work for another CO for the duration creating a 5 person company (or what you are used to seeing on a daily basis). They can also place the Engineer in charge of the FF allowing them to work as a 2 person team when appropriate. In many departments the Engineer is basically an assistant CO or CO in training, so it is expected that there is some leadership ability in the position.

                Comment


                • #23
                  "Manpower standing around" doesn't need leadership. But the manpower committed to work does.

                  "Leadership ability" from a non-supervisory member may not hold up too well if something goes wrong and the department is being held liable.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by captnjak View Post
                    "Manpower standing around" doesn't need leadership. But the manpower committed to work does.

                    "Leadership ability" from a non-supervisory member may not hold up too well if something goes wrong and the department is being held liable.
                    I think you are really over thinking this. Far too many times we find ourselves understaffed and with company officers doing active command where they are inside working with their companies and this may not be for just a few minutes, it may be for a good chunk of an incident. We do not always have a command officer responding in a command car, let alone with an aide and command board to set up on smaller scale incidents like a house fire. This is not only volunteer departments either, smaller paid or combination departments do not have the luxury of a dedicated command staff at every incident. So when we do, and there is enough other staffing to allow, if I am the chief officer I may or may not take command from the company officer. I want them to be well trained and well versed at commanding the incident and actual experience is the only way to gain that.

                    I am not at all ripping the FDNY for the staffing they have, I would gladly have all of our Engines staffed with 4 or 5, the truck with 5-7, and our Squad with 6 or 7, but that is not reality. We staff an engine company, usually with 4, sometimes with 3 and count on paid on call to augment that. I would also love to guarantee a command car, with an experienced chief officer and an aide on every call.

                    We struggle with staffing every day and part of that struggle is getting enough officers to show up to set up proper command. THAT alone is why I am all for letting a company officer run the scene to gain that experience. Is it wrong? I don't think so, but it sure may be different than your reality.
                    Crazy, but that's how it goes
                    Millions of people living as foes
                    Maybe it's not too late
                    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      I get that we each have a different reality to deal with. What jumped out at me in the original post was having command staff on scene and not having that chief take command. This is a bit different from having no command staff on scene. In that case it is plain to see that a company officer has to take the command function.
                      I would think that a lack of staffing would make it even more important that all company officers be involved on a tactical hands-on level. Why dedicate two to a function that can be filled by one?
                      I don't see the fulfilling of the command function as a luxury. One individual can do it if that is what is called for. But that single individual should indeed be dedicated to that single function.
                      I agree that training the next generation of command officers is important. I think that should be on a case by case basis dependent on conditions encountered and the abilities of those involved.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        I thought I made it pretty clear it was on a case by case basis.

                        Crazy, but that's how it goes
                        Millions of people living as foes
                        Maybe it's not too late
                        To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by captnjak View Post
                          "Manpower standing around" doesn't need leadership. But the manpower committed to work does.

                          "Leadership ability" from a non-supervisory member may not hold up too well if something goes wrong and the department is being held liable.
                          I can only speak for the agencies I've worked for, but Fire Engine Operators held Company Officer certification as a job requirement so that really wasn't an issue. They had to because they were the relief company officers used to cover annual leave and sick days.

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