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Executive Officer Leadership: Make a Decision

“Command from Engine 1, we are one minute out. What are our orders?”

As incident commanders or chief officers, answering this question is a common decision you make on a regular basis.

The life safety of your personnel and the people affected by the emergency all depend on your response. The compressed time frames during fireground operations are unforgiving and require definitive actions to mitigate the emergency.

Many chief officers have studied and prepared for and have experienced many types of fireground situations. Recognition-primed decision making allows fireground commanders to effectively base their decisions and actions quickly on previous experiences. Countless lives have been saved and successful outcomes have been achieved based on these quick and decisive actions.

How do these processes transfer to the administrative responsibilities and decisions required by many of these same officers?

The time constraints for administrative responsibilities and decisions within these roles are more forgiving. Dealing with personnel and disciplinary issues, organizational policies and procedures, budgets, long-range planning, procurement of equipment, and vehicle repairs and maintenance are just a few examples of administrative responsibilities that typically don’t require immediate answers.

Chief officers can’t rush into making quick decisions, as they must do on the fireground, that could negatively impact the organization and personnel. Time is needed to consider short-term and long-term impacts of a decision. Feedback and input from multiple stakeholders in the organization can provide different information to improve the outcome.

Too often, we hear about decisions that were made without considering or listening to other options. Winston Churchill stated, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Many times, our emotions drive decisions that could lead to an impulsive response. Making administrative decisions the way you do on the fireground could contribute to greater complications and more problems in the future.

Chief officers will be continually challenged to step back from everything they’ve learned for decision making on the fireground before making administrative decisions. Many administrative solutions can and should be methodically examined and discussed before implementation.

Don’t rush to judgement and have that decision negatively impact your organization and personnel long term. After careful and deliberate consideration of all the factors, make a decision that will lead to the greatest good for your community, organization and personnel.

As chief officers, our jobs are to make decisions. But more importantly, it’s our job to stop and listen. Take your time administratively to process and gather all the information and make an informed decision that will hopefully not lead to another question.


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