Making the Push
There’s a bunch of responsibility when being an officer, but one of the more glorious things is getting in there with your squad. I’m talking about being first due Engine or Truck and getting to work on an all hands job. For most of us, this is what we love about being firefighters – “Getting Salty” as they say. As much as we love this part of firefighting, as an officer, are you truly ready to make the push? Are you able to put the adrenaline aside and understand the situation you’re about to get into? For the people that have been here before, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. For the people who haven’t, how do you prepare for when you have fire staring you in the face, and a crew of guys behind you waiting for your orders?
Being first due to a job, or being tasked with an assignment that can potentially put you in harm’s way is a solid way to get the nerves going. When you first make entry and have that nasty smoke and heat coming at you, it’s either you or the fire. In other words, if you don’t kill that fire, it’s going to try and kill you. When we’re at that point, we all know what our jobs are, but before you make that push you have to understand what else is at stake.
As the officer, you are the eyes and ears for the incident commander. Everything you see and everything you do directly affects the others on the fireground. You also have your company behind you waiting for you to lead them in. However, it’s not just the call you make that they anticipate, it’s also your energy and confidence. For some newer firefighters, when you first make entry, they quickly realize this isn’t Hollywood, and that’s going to get their adrenaline going. Because they look to you for guidance, the way you speak to them and the way you act at that moment are going to have a major impact on how well they perform. If you’re in that position, you’ll know if it’s safe to go in or not. If you know it’s a situation that can be handled, your communication to them should be swift and loud enough for them to hear.
When making that initial push, you’re going to lead them in and you’re going to look confident as you’re doing it. Your body language will be contagious and your crew will follow along. You need to communicate to your crew the entire time what you are seeing, what you’re feeling, and what you hear on the radios if they don’t have any. When reporting back to the OIC, and I cannot stress this enough – take a deep breath and collect your thoughts before making a transmission. Do not scream into the microphone because the way it comes out on the other end will likely be muffled. This leads to confusion and it makes you sound nervous which will rub off on the rest of your crew.
Once you’ve successfully completed your part of the mission, it’s best to debrief with your company and ask if everyone is feeling ok. When you get back to the firehouse, you can continue your debrief on a more in depth level. As the officer you have to show confidence so your members will follow you down the hall. The other side of that is making sure you’re not being cocky. Being cocky when it comes to firefighting is one of the more dangerous things you can do. You want to get the job done without any hiccups.
When the time comes for you to make the push, you better make sure you’re ready for it. Keep your training up, understand fire behavior and how to read smoke, be aware of your surroundings and hazards. If you have the basics down, you’ll be confident. If things get bad during your operation, again resort to confidence. You’d much rather explain to your crew why you decided to pull out instead of explaining to your superior officer why somebody is going to the hospital. In the case you make a mistake, or you could have done something different, just own up to it. People will respect that. But leading your crew into the flames with courage and confidence will give them the same energy you’re putting off, which will make for great conversation about how you made the push.
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