The Company Officer’s job is one of the most difficult jobs on the fire ground. Here are a few tips to make it a little easier. First, stay calm and stay together.
Stay calm – don’t get excited and maintain a command presence. Give orders that are clear and easily understood. Order should loud enough so they can be heard, but achieved by yelling. If you sound and act calm and professional, your crew will remain calm and professional.
Stay together – the safety of your crew is your main mission. You must be able to account for your people at all times on the fireground. The easiest way to know where your people are is to keep them with you.
If you are performing engine company functions, this is easy, because all members are involved in stretching and operating the line. On the other hand, when performing ladder company functions, you need to get creative. When operating as a ladder company, it is common practice to split your crew into two teams. One team on the inside search team, of which the Officer is a member. The other as the outside vent / search team. They should be the more experienced members and must be radio equipped. When it’s time to leave the building and rehab; whenever possible, leave together, rehab together, and return to a new assignment together.
What tools and equipment should the officer carry?
- Portable Radio – this radio must be secured in a case with a shoulder strap and must have a lapel microphone fastened some where in the shoulder area. Another option is to utilize a radio pocket on the turn out coat with a strap sewn on to fasten the lapel microphone to the coat in the shoulder area. When using a case and shoulder strap, consider wearing it under the turn out coat, to protect the radio from heat and water damage.
- Hand Light – the hand light should be a rechargeable lantern style with a shoulder strap or fastened to a waist belt. Consider keeping a smaller flashlight in a coat pocket or a small LED light on your helmet as a back up.
- Thermal Imaging Camera – make sure you are familiar with how to operate the TIC, and fasten it to you with a strap or clip of some sort. Remember the TIC should never replace a hand light.
- Personal Rope – always have a 25 to 40 foot length of small diameter rope in your pocket. This rope could be a real lifesaver for you and your crew.
- Wooden Door Chock – this is used to keep doors from closing on the line and from locking behind you, trapping you and your crew.
Make sure your people have what they need to get the work done. The best way to accomplish this is to use pre-incident tool assignments.
- Inside Search Team – six-foot hook, halligan tool and flat head axe, 2 ½ gallon water extinguisher.
- Outside Vent/Search Team – six to eight foot hook, halligan tool, appropriate ladder, and a portable radio.
- Roof Team – appropriate ladder, eight-foot hook, axe, power saw, rope, halligan and a portable radio.
Maintain communications with your crew, at all times.
Maintaining communication with members of a truck crew who are operating remote from the officer, is best done with the use of portable radios. Maintaining communications with members of an engine crew can be a bit more difficult. The difficulty comes from the noise of the operating hand-line in conjunction with trying to talk through the SCBA face piece. In this case, try using a series of predetermined hand/touch signals. For example, to start water (open the nozzle) two pats on the nozzleman’s shoulder. To shut down (close the nozzle) three pats on the nozzleman’s shoulder. To advance forward, gently push forward on the nozzleman’s shoulder. To change the direction of the stream, the officer gently pushes or pulls the nozzle in the direction desired. If an emergency situation develops and the team must retreat, use four or five strong slaps on the members shoulder and then pull in the direction of the retreat.
Remember the mission of the company officer is to supervise task level work, not do the work. “When the supervisor is working, supervision is not.” Maintain communications with your crew, train/drill and motivate your people.
Before taking your crew in the hazard zone, have a plan for escaping the hazard zone in an emergency.
Don’t forget, lead by example!