Been having this debate for a while. Looking for yall's take on what is an officer. Duties, responsibililty, expected of them. This is a volunteer department if that makes a difference.

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Kind of where this question is coming from is there are 2 or 3 of us that do most of the planning for drills, PR events, fire safety, work at the station. Some of the guys have no problems with us leading the way, but some talk about us not being officers. The officers only seem to do when there is a fire, wreck, ems call. So that is the reason I have posted the question. What defines or is the definition of a officer?
Planning for public events etc. need not be the function of an officer but rather a committee formed to deal with the specifics. You will probably still see the same people showing up to plan the event but maybe a committee can get more involved. An officer runs specific day to day events in order to develop the sense of trust we all must have for them in order that we follow them on the fire ground ,which is where we must have respect and faith in all our officers.
Well, your last sentence is bugging me. Because in reality, that mindset is a problem in the fire service. You state you have been debating this for a while. Probably in your own department, which I would bet, elects your officers annually. The debate comes from feeling some were qualified and others not.

You see, my opinion is all fire officers should be at a minimum equal. Regardless of paid, part-time, paid-on-call, or volunteer. I am talking about firefighter certifications, years of experience for Lt. Captain, Deputy and Chief, the promotional testing process not popularity contest, and advanced leadership training. But that is in a fairy tale world.

We unfortunately debated this many times before and will many times again in the future. I know elected Fire Chief's without a FF-1 certification, and I have paid probie's coming onto the job with all the certifications you can get and degree's to boot.
Amen to that
No the officers are elected, they were appointed before I got on the department, which has been 6 0r 8 years now. They do nothing about trying to help with the day to day. They only to me "act" like officers when there is a call. It could be just me, but I would think they would or should be trying to be more active in they things that me and the others are doing. And before anyone gets to thinking I want an officers position I do not want it. I seem to be the one who wants to do the things and have no better sense then to just step in and plan and ask for those that want to help to let me know.
To me, a volunteer officer in general is should always be a step ahead of all skills and knowledge. And above all experience. He is a good example and plays a role model to his men. His personal weakness should be overcome not getting the way of accomplishing his task and the mission that is. He takes care and seeks out the welfare of his men. And does not take advantage over them. He always earns respect from his men, not in imposing. And he keeps the sacred trust of his men under his command. For me as an officer as a reward is watching your men after every call. Happy that they have done their duty or made a difference at that call.
I agree with these guys but want to emphasize that what an officer IS and what an officer SHOULD BE are many times two different things. True, we live in a real world and not a fairy tale world. The respect should be earned and the attention to safety and professionalism should come first, then the brass should come naturally, not by popular vote.
I agree that an Officer needs to be a leader in the fire service no matter if they are on a paid department or not. Sadly in the volunteer service that isn't always the case. Some departments just promote the guy/gal who's been on the longest and seen the most fires as they should know their stuff. It doesn't mean the rest of the department respects him or her, but due to the chain of command will follow them.

To often in the volunteer service so & so has been a Lt. for 10 years, and will be until he/she retires. No one knows when that will be, so no one prepares to take his/her place. The Chief is then left with the same problem, who can do it?

The officer, in my opinion, on a volunteer department needs to be at all the training he/she can be at. Not just show up, but participate in the hands on. If you feel the training was or was not benificial, take it to the Chief, or the training officer DO NOT make comments to the firefighters. That sort of thing grows to "If Lt. so & so doesn't want to do it, why should I?"

The officer needs to always lead by example. That doesn't mean they have to be a saint outside of the fire station, but it does mean that the members shouldn't know that at a 1600 hour fire call you will be responding from the bar uptown on a weekday.

I can go on and on, and on about the bad. The Good Officer can be put into one sentence: He/She is always there, and are able to assist and teach me when ever I need help.

Hello Thanks for breaking it down.

To often in the volunteer service so & so has been a Lt. for 10 years, and will be until he/she retires. No one knows when that will be, so no one prepares to take his/her place. The Chief is then left with the same problem, who can do it?

one more to add....I've read an article somewhere on FFN on about mentoring his /her men. Exploring that art of mentoring. It is great that some of the traditions and all the works are passed on the next generations of firefighters. So the point is, an officer does not reserve his knowledge and experience and all the men that needs to know on how to be a good fireman. I've met some officers who are paranoid of not teaching some skills and techniques, thinking the officer will become obsolete. Or an ambitious subordinate will kick him out in the end. But not that case... that's why an officer is always a step ahead on a never ending quest for more, efficient way of fighting fires and to be a good EMS provider.
Chris? I like what you've written. You mention so much about what a good officer should be (in any field).

Electing officers, good or bad? Elections can too often be a popularity contest - not good. I've seen where people seem to believe that just because 'Joe Bloggs' has been an officer for some years, he should be left there until he wants to give up - not a good concept. Career appointments. If they use an honest appraisal system, that can be good; the person most suited should get the job. How often though can simple seniority be all that matters? Not good. Nepotism and friendship can come into it with career as well as volunteer. Neither system is always good.

We can also look at experience by itself. Will experience give us the best person for the job? Maybe, maybe not. Experience doesn't always mean the best knowledge, the best ideas, the ability to lead and direct people. There are people who are simply not good at leading, though they may be terrific at the job. People who think they 'deserve' the job because they've been around the longest? Why?

How about officer training. Does that automatically make you a good officer? Not always in my experience. I've seen new officers in the Army stuff up because they thought pips on the shoulder made them a super being - and known those officers torn apart by senior NCO's that new the job and also knew how to get the best of people. How about other training, should an officer be the highest qualified person around? Why? Knowledge of the job doesn't have to make a person the best leader. But you should have a good level of training, insufficient knowledge will mean you won't understand what it is that you are asking others to do. Leadership skills can be learned, but only if the person is willing to learn ! A would-be leader must learn how to treat with others, how to let them know that their opinions will be listened to, acknowledged, perhaps adopted. A leader must respect others, if they want in turn to be respected.

It would be nice to live in a perfect world...
An Officer needs to be a leader, but leaders do not need to be officers. Many departments, both full-time and otherwise, have leaders amongst the regulars {non-officers} that others turn to for guidance or answers regardless of rank.

Now, that having been said, Officer positions should have some minimum experience and training levels set on them regardless if the department is full-time or completely volunteer. Think on it this way, if you have an incident and do not have a Safety Officer specifically assigned, who becomes the Safety Officer? The answer is the other Officer(s). In order to be an effective Safety Officer one should have a certain amount of training and experience to be able to quickly and accurately recognize unsafe conditions and practices as the arise, and be able to quickly and effectively mitigate them.

If the incumbent officers are not leading the department satisfactorily, then they either need to be disciplined or voted out. On this subject I would suggest an adaption of my primary rule for success when dealing with management, "Make the boss think it was their idea in the first place". To explain, very diplomatically and as non-confrontational as possible mention the idea to the officers and see if perhaps they are just waiting for someone else to show the initiative. If necessary, using the same tactics approach the regulars and first determine if they are waiting for the same initiative. If that is not the case then attempt to find moments in conversation to point out how strong leadership in officers is vital to a departments safety and longevity. Be very careful here you do not want to actually or even be perceived as creating "unrest" within the department. If you see this as a strong possibility, then it is perhaps best to simply let the incumbents and your own actions speak for themselves until they decide to change.

Above all else, if you wish to be a leader {or officer} you must act as a leader. Recognize that whether you think so or not, those around you do see the example you set, so set a good example.
There are a lot of good examples and definitions. The only thing that I would expand on is the advice that my grandfather gave me when I was prepping for my Captain's exam.

A Fire Captain is the important role in the fire service. These are the men and women that are teaching and mentoring the future of our service on a daily basis. These men and women must be well trained and educated. They have to lead those junior to them into some of the most dangerous environments known to mankind. They must be of sound mind and quick judgment. They have to make choices of life and death and make the life choice 100% of the time. In the event that he/she makes the wrong choice then they are the first to step up and take accountability for their decisions. The largest factor in being a good captain in this service…knowing that if you make that wrong choice and you lost a partner because of it, well this is when the true test starts. You have to face their family and tell them…”Your loved one was a brave man or woman that courageously did their job, but is not coming home.” If and when you can accept that and be of open mind and will and can accept these potential duties, then and only then will you be a superior officer.
He finished by saying that he would hope that no FF would lose their life, but that is unrealistic. Choices will be made whether it is right or wrong. It is living with those wrong choices and learning from them rather than regretting them is what makes a great fire service captain.

Be safe and learn something new today.

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