The Backseat Officer

To be an officer, you need to be able to multitask. Sometimes depending on the situation, every part of your mind is occupied by what’s going on, and that’s ok. That’s why we have a chain of command. One of the jobs we have as officers is assigning roles to our crew in the back. Sure we may have positions written out at the beginning of our shifts or the jobs are laid out on the seat we’re sitting in, but there’s more than just that. It’s being prepared for the call you’re responding to.

When responding to a job, the officer may be occupied with monitoring the radio and listening for assignments, being an extra pair of eyes for the chauffeur, and getting the proper tools set up on his gear. For the guys in the backseat, they may be waiting for an assignment from the officer which may not happen right away. This is where the senior man comes in. The backseat officer. A person with plenty of knowledge and experience that’s responded to these types of calls multiple times. This person is basically a sidekick to the leader of your crew.

The backseat officer can monitor the radios as well and they can help delegate assignments to the junior members. If you’re in the truck company, the backseat officer may tell the junior firefighter to link up with the search team. They’ll put another two guys as OV and tell another firefighter to join them for roof operations. If your crew is short, they’ll have the knowledge to know how to assign the proper roles. If you’re on the engine, they’ll be able to delegate the hydrant assignment or nozzleman and backup man. Once they have everything figured out in the back, they can yell up to the front to let the officer know that all positions have been assigned. This takes a lot of weight off their shoulders.

The thing to understand here is that as an officer, you’re going to be occupied by a bunch of different situations going on, and having that senior firefighter in the back will be a huge help to the operation. This should be something that’s encouraged. Maybe as you’re boarding the rig, you can turn to that senior man and ask them to help you with assigning roles. You don’t want to be the only guy that can give assignments because if you get too caught up, you’re going to get off the rig at a scene with a crew of guys standing around awaiting orders. Find the person you feel most comfortable with that can get this done for you, so when you get on scene, you have a crew that’s ready to go.

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