Based upon rank/position; "What is the Single most important thing you should either know (knowledge) or be competent in (skill), within your position?" i.e; Firefighter, Firefighter/EMT, Lieutenant, Captain, Engineer/Apparatus Operator; Safety Officer, RIT Officer, Battalion or District Chief, Shift Commander, Deputy or Assistant Chief, Chief of Department etc. Name the position and what you believe is THE Most Important thing you should either know or be competent in………(OK, IF you're having trouble picking just ONE, try the top two..)

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My first day as a Volunteer, I was handed a safety video, mostly people getting injured or killed in the line of duty because they missed something.

Safety should be the primary goal at EVERY rank, but not to the exclusion of using all of one's senses to do the job. Using all five senses and your brain to analyze a scene and assess all the potential hazards should be the primary competency of every firefighter or officer.

Everybody goes home, and if we do great scene assessments our chances increase.
"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
I agree with the group that without a doubt Safety is #1, but Safety should be #1 for everybody from the Chief of the Department to the boot recruit Firefighter.

As a company officer I feel the single most important thing I need to be competent in is quick decision making. The crew assigned to me is going to doubt my competency if I take forever to make a decision, or even worse fail to make one altogether.
I think the single most important thing is safety. The next most important is knowing your own capabilities along with your crews and equipment. Some people just can't ask for help.Be safe and everybody come home .
With any position safty is the most important aspect of the job. We are not helping anyone if we are injured or sending our people into dangerous situations. This is where training comes into play. We are taught how to read smoke and building size up. We use this information to tell if it is safe to send in a team. If it is safe then we need to be keeping track of where and how the team is doing inside, while watching the structure. All this boils down to saftey and training.

Great replies and responses by everyone, however many of you are identifying Safety as a competency or skill. Safety is a great ATTRIBUTE. As an example; How would you categorize Safety into a competency or level of knowledge? Here's a few examples; IF Safety is a desired attribute, then a desired skill or knowledge area might be knowing a great deal on building construction, or if an apparatus operator on an engine company a skill or knowledge area might be hydraulics.
I do think working safely is a skill, one that some folks just do not have. Certainly more knowledge offers the opportunity to work more safely, but it does not guarantee it. Knowledge is only power when it is used. I will say categorically that being able to think in terms of the big picture is a skill, and one of the most important we can develop. Too often, folks in our business suffer from tunnel vision, and the ability to observe the totality of your assignment is an incredibly valuable skill. It makes us safer in the field and more fully aware going to and from calls.
Great comment; "I will say categorically that being able to think in terms of the big picture is a skill, and one of the most important we can develop." This says alot...
An officer must have a number of skills and knowledge actually,For instance I feel that the skills should reflect on a history of training and hands on experience dealing with everything from dealing with split second decision making to dealing with the public and interdepartmental issues.
Knowledge come with experience on scenes,learning to read smoke,understand what resources willl be needed to accomplish an objective,managing personnel,discision making,and any other issues that may arise.
Its a double edged sword and a good officer needs to know how to give and take.and not be above admitting if a mistake is made.
Knew a neighboring 5-bugle chief. Wouldn't follow him into a warm kitchen let alone the gates of hell. But this chief had a knack for grant writing. His dept. was the best equipped in the county. Had all of the latest and greatest safety equipement. Now I know this may not work in a small vol. FD, but sometimes the best chiefs are the best administraters and the worst line officers.
I'll agree wiyh you on that case i know a cheif that is great administrator but I wouldn't follow him anywhere
As a firefighter, I believe it is vitally important to know where equipment is located on each piece and have the skill to operate the equipment on your respective apparatus. Firefighters are the most important tools on the apparatus. More experienced firefighters will be called upon to make decisions, but younger firefighters (especially probies) will be led by company officers who make the decisions. When your officer orders you to do something, you should be able to operate the tools of the trade.

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