Just What Should They Be Doing?
We often hear of the truck officer as a “supervisor” of the truck team. I have come to learn that this position requires far more than an ability to supervise or direct firefighters. They are a link in the chain, an integral part of the team, and the director of an orchestra.
You see the truck officer role and responsibilities are far more important to a well-oiled machine (the truck team) than being just the “officer”.
What Makes a Good Truck Officer?
In my humble opinion the number one quality in any good officer, but most important in the truck officer, is being a great firefighter. This quality cannot be learned after you become an officer, it must be forged in the early stages of a firefighter’s career. I guarantee most of us know exactly what I am speaking about.
No one should aspire to an officer position without learning the craft and job of a great firefighter. Another must skill for the truck officer is to be comfortable with every task required of the truck crew. Let me just list a few:
Search skills (large area and residential)
Forced entry skills
Ventilation (all of it)
Fire Dynamics and flow path issues
Reading smoke and predicting fire travel
Building construction types and challenges
Overhaul and salvage techniques
Firefighter rescue skills (to a fault)
Oh, and supervisory skills too
As you can see the emphasis of the truck officer is to DO the work; not supervise others to do the work! In today’s fire service way too much emphasis is placed on supervision and way too little emphasis is placed on being a good firefighter.
Many in our business believe that being placed in the position of officer means you don’t have to work. That is a fatal flaw in today’s fire service and a killer of the truck team. The truck officer must set the tone of the team, establish a positive attitude of “we cannot fail”. That gets the juices flowing for the team.
Teamwork, The Crew and the Truck Officer
Before one can function as part of the team they must understand the team. The truck officer must quickly learn his crew, prioritize training needs, establish primary, secondary and tertiary task for each position and person. They must learn each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and learn the district and all the types of structures in the district.
The truck officer must come to terms with their strengths and weaknesses and work hard at improving. Find the “leader” of the pack on the team and use them to establish the training agenda then when you arrive on scene go to work! Get off the rig with your gear on and ready for battle. Have the tools for your responsibilities. Be the first in the door!
Be confident in your and your team’s ability to get the job done. If the incident requires some decisions on tactical objectives and task assignments, make them quickly and confidently.
These a just a few of the qualities I believe to be essential to the truck officer. I welcome other thoughts and comments, until next time be safe, stay low and keep learning!