There are a lot of sayings about preparation, especially in the fire service. If you ask about being ready to respond to a fire you will get a lot of advice, most of it good advice.
You will find some that say preparation starts on the training ground. Others will say preparation starts when the call is dispatched, there is a lot of decisions to be made depending on the time of day and type of structure you will be dealing with. Both of these are correct statements, but there are also a few preparation tips that get overlooked.
One key to being effective on the fireground is having the right person in the right place.
It doesn’t matter if you come from a small department, large department, full-time, or volunteer department. Some firefighters are just better at different things.
Knowing the strengths of your crew is critical. Assigning people on apparatus should not be taken lightly. Some departments let seniority decide who gets to drive, and some even let senior firefighters pick their assignment. That can be a tricky situation if it keeps the most qualified person out of a critical position.
Just because someone has been around a long time doesn’t mean they are the best driver. Seniority has it’s benefits but not when it affects performance of the team.
A good driver is an officer’s best friend. When it’s time to respond to a fire it is a great benefit to look to your left and see someone who you have confidence in. There is a lot that goes into being a good driver, and I’m sure there are a lot of quick answers to what makes a good driver. Most people will jump to the safety side and say the best driver is always the safest.
I think the most important thing for a driver is to know where they are going. As an officer you are responsible for a lot of things and getting to the right location is pretty basic. Unfortunately as an officer you don’t have a steering wheel in front of you. Nothing is more aggravating than a driver that asks you where to go. Officers have a lot of things to do on the way to a fire, and giving directions takes away from other responsibilities. “If I need to tell you how to get there, I might as well drive myself”.
It is also important that the driver is familiar with the officers preferences.
If you work together on a regular basis it is pretty easy to know what to expect as far as lead-outs and apparatus placement. If the driver and officer don’t work together often a short discussion at the start of the shift is helpful. Just let the driver know that you really like a quick attack, or that you lean more towards a reverse type lead-out.
Of course this can and should change based on the situation but it is good to know some tendencies. Knowing tendencies helps eliminate discussions on the fireground when there really isn’t much time.
Putting the right person in the right spot should be a company officer’s responsibility. Don’t let anything get in the way of you having the most qualified person in the right spot. It’s your job to get things done right, and that starts with the right person in the right spot.