I've read all of the replies to date and not one person has mentioned the obvious (to me, at least) criterion: Responsibility.
An officer is responsible not just for keeping the house in order but is responsible for the safety and well being of the crew. Poor or inexperienced judgment that causes a firefighter to be injured or killed (or a structure to burn down or a civilian to be lost) can come back to bite the officer in the ass.
Failure to recognize the signs of impending flashover or possible structural failure leading to death or injury is going to be the responsibility of the/an officer. A balls to the wall attack because the officer thinks a macho tactic is appropriate in a situation that calls for a calm, reasoned approach won't always have a good outcome. Failing to recognize when discretion is the better part of valor can and does kill firefighters.
A driver who causes (or is charged with causing) an accident may not be the sole responsibility of the driver, the officer in the seat may have to share that responsibility. Sadly there is an example of that here in Connecticut.
Training and experience are paramount criteria for good leadership and as I said one other time, I can learn to like an officer that knows what the hell he or she is doing. An officer is going to be held responsible for his or her actions in the rig and on the fire ground. There have been some officers that have been charged and even jailed for failure to take appropriate action or to have allowed inappropriate action to be taken.
I'm not in any way implying that a good officer needs to be a lawyer, but one does need to understand that their actions can and will have repercussions and consequences. Even for those departments that "still" elect their officers, failure on the department's part to ensure that that person is qualified to be an officer means only that they too will share some of the responsibility but overall, the person in the officer's seat or the IC may bear the brunt of it all. It's not just about telling other people what to do, it's about being responsible for doing the best possible thing.
Pass it off as society being litigious but a Fire Department is expected to act according to best practices and standards (NFPA) and failure to adhere leaves a department and officers open to law suits. You may be surprised at how "unpopular" a "popular" officer may quickly become once the dust settles and the law suits start being filed.
With respect mine did, in an indirect way. I didn't use the word responsible, and probably should have because it is an excellent word that describes a fire service officer. Knowing that a desion you made cost the life of a fellow firefighter, and being accountable to that desion is the highest form of responsibilty an officer can have.
Along with this is also having the responsibility to decide not to send others in after a possible fatality in quickly deteriorating circumstances i.e. Worchester Storage Fire. The IC knew that he had deceased FFs in there. He maintained a responsibilty to those still alive though and said(I paraphrase) No more. That is a leader, he didn't start out has a DC. When everything seems to have gone wrong and everyone else is frustrated and anxious, the officer stays level headed and makes a choice, sometimes even though it may be the most unpopular by all hands on scene.
an officers role. well everyone has hit the nail on the head with everything. one more thing is that the chief officer is sometimes no more than an over gloridied baby sitter. i am sure every other fire department has dealt with baby sitting there fireman. in my volunteer department my chief and myself (1st asst,) take care of everything. we had to go with two fireman to the hospital the other night after they got hurt in training. nothing serious thank god. i have seen other chiefs say "call me later" but we didnt. like most everyone else has said you should care about your men and do anything for them. i only got 3 hours of sleep that night after getting home from the hospital but i knew they were ok and home. being an officer alot of times your fire department comes home with you. paper work never stops especially when someone gets hurt. research never stops because the new laws are always changing. the yearly mandates are only getting worse along with the price of things. i love being an officer but like others have said the is a ton of responsibility with it. being an officer is great but read alot of information about things. stay on top of new tools and equipment because someone out there will test you and question you on things. having the right answer is the key and if they do not believe you show them. if i do not know the answer then i will research it because i do not tell the a lie. stay safe brothers and sisters
For some, it's all about ego,...status, authority. To me being an Officer requires education, the ability to reason, to be impartial, and to have guts. Guts to against the popular notion of the day if it is detrimental to the department's ability to provide service, along with maintaining a degree of respect within the community.
Being an officer means different things to different people. Obviously there are different levels of officer. Your rank, or position, should reflect your ability to provide leadership to the degree required, as in company level, or engine/truck company officer, right up the line to Chief of department. Tactical knowledge, training, and most certainly a solid background of YEARS in first as a firefighter, with a complete knowledge and ability to perform competently as a firefighter, mastering the basics first. This requires GOING TO FIRES. Popularity does not learn ya the fire business!
It may or may not call for "the most experience", and a bundle of certifications may, or may not be of greatest importence. But both show a desire to learn, a willingness to push further, and the motivationa nd desire to accel. Anyone who consistently chooses to try to get by on just the minimum effort is NOT an officer candidate. You cannot LEAD, or DIRECT, or SUPERVISE firefighters performing their tasks if you have not mastered those tasks, if you have not put your time in doing the job. That's the technical side. There IS more than just the technical side though.
How about common sense? Maturity? If you cannot successfully supervise your own life, you won't be successful trying to bullshoot others. You have to be able to balance the needs of your personnel against the needs of the department, "the greater good", and ultimately, be strong enough, and intelligent enough to get thing done...by your leadership, through your subordinates. It's easy when everyone is all on board. How do you handle rejection? Defeat of your plans, your ideas? Because that will play a big role.
Simply put, an officer is a person too...with potential for foul and failure. But must be resilient enough to pick it all back up, regroup, look everyone in the eye and admit you were wrong, ot you screwed up, but you are "on it", and going to fix it.
It may be different in a Career department as oppossed to a volunteer department. I have never been a volunteer officer. I have worked with them, and do with them often. But as a career officer you also have to understand the consequences of what your actions, and your subordinates actions may be. Discipline is very real, and may have far reaching effects, such as charging, and costing an employee a day's pay, or even more...such as permenantly remove an employee from their career. You cannot over-look potential costly infractions, such as alcohol use, or abuse of time off. But you must be trained to recognize when an employee is in trouble, sudden changes in personality, or ability to do the job...all of this requires training. Beyond the ability to read smoke, or make a proper size-up.
It's being able to make a human size-up, if you are going to be a good officer, one that is a leader. You cannot be a leader if no one choose's to follow you, and they won't follow you if they don't trust you, or if they don't think you have any idea of what you are doing, or trying to accomplish. Again, it takes education, experience, training.
LIFE experience as well as nozzle time.
The Officer does NOT always stand behing his crews decisssions, because the crew may not always make the correct choices. It's not a position of friendship, it's one of leadership through example. Nobody will trust, or respect an officer with little, or no credibility. Remember it's the PERSON that makes the Officer, and not the officer that makes the person.
As for the part about "union greivences", they are considered as way to maintain checks and balances. Greivences without merit usually are thrown out. However if an officer becomes a tyrant, there must be a fair way to address him/her. An officer should know his company well, however there must be some degree of cautious seperation. When you become ranking, you are not one of boys anymore. And that is one of the hardest things to accept.
Your human, and your subordinates are human. Humans do dumb things sometimes, and other times do amazingly intelligent things other times. Most of the time we are somewhere in the middle
I can help you out a lot with that, I'm on a Vol Dept also. I would define a officer of a fire department as someone that is willing to take the classes needed to understand that paper work,regs,ect. I would also say an good officer is someone that will take his/her men and show them the right way something is done. I don't agree with a firefighter being put into an officer's position and then just saying to heak with whats going on in the department. They need to be just as much if not more involved with the Department and what is going on then anyone. We have officers here that are not even level 1 certified. I'm level 1 and 2 certified and still they do not want to put me into an officer position because I want to bring my dept up to code. I mean our bunker gear is 10 and 11 years old and that's uncalled for. I don't want gear that I have to worry about holding up in a house fire on top of all the other things we as firefighters have to worry about. If you want to talk more about it just message me here.
Davy Volunteer Fire Department.
WOW, well said michael. I was going to comment, but you said everything I was going to say. I can't explain the pride I have in my men after a job well done, it is very rewarding. Thank you for such a meaningful post.
That's crazy that you have officers that are not firefighter 1 certified. I'm not sure that's a good idea. Sounds to me, and this is just my opinion, that you have a "good old boys club" on your hands. That is very dangerous. Please be careful and stay safe.