“Command from Engine 1, we are one minute out, what are our orders?"
As Incident Commanders or Chief Officers, this is a common decision that all of you make on a regular basis. The life safety of your personnel and the people affected by the emergency all depend on the immediate decision you make. The compressed time frames during fireground operations are unforgiving and require definitive actions to mitigate the emergency.
Many Chief Officers have studied, prepared, and experienced many of these 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 that were taken.
However, how do these same thought processes transfer over to the administrative responsibilities and decisions required by many of these same Chief Officers? The time constraints for the administrative responsibilities and decisions of these positions 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 do not require an immediate answer or response at that moment.
Chief Officers cannot be rushing into making quick decisions, as they do on the fireground that could negatively impact the organization and personnel. Time needs to be taken and allowed to consider short term and long term impacts of the 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 like you’re 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 that has been instilled in them for decision making on the fireground and how they make administrative decisions. Many administrative solutions can be methodically examined and discussed before implementation. Don’t rush to judgement and have that decision negatively impact the organization and personnel long term. After careful and deliberate consideration of all the factors, make a decision that hopefully will lead to the greatest good for the community, organization, and personnel.
As a Chief Officer, our job is to make decisions. But more importantly, it’s our job to stop and listen. Take your time administratively to process and gather all of the information and make an informed decision that will hopefully not lead to another question..
Copyright 2017 FIREGROUND360°. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the consent of FIREGROUND360° and it's authors.
Christopher W. Norris has been a member of the Westhampton Fire Department since April 1994. He has served in numerous capacities in the organization up until his appointment to Fire Chief in January 2007. Chief Norris has a Master’s Degree in Fire Science and Administration from Anna Maria College, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Westfield State University and is currently completing his Doctorate Degree in Public Policy and Administration. Chief Norris has completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program through the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program and is a member of the EFO Section representing the New England Division on the Board of Directors.
Behind The Mask is devoted to firefighters, showcasing them as individuals within the realm of firefighting. Why do we do this job? What motivates us? Who are we when the mask comes off? From veterans to probies, it promises to give a little insight into our world and the people who do the job every day.
Behind The Mask: Captain Rich Tibbetts
Written by Deborah Kowal
Captain Rich Tibbetts has been working at Westover Air Reserve Base as a DOD (department of defense) civilian firefighter for the past six years. Rated as a GS8 and promoted to Captain this past September, Rich is thirty-eight years old, and currently in his thirteenth year within the fire service.
Originally from Barnstable Massachusetts, he now lives near Worcester with his wife and two daughters, ages 8 and 10, and a three-year-old son. His family recently expanded with a new addition of a four-month-old boxer puppy. He commutes twice a week to the Westover base, working 48 hours on and 72 hours off, spending his time equally between home and the work.
Rich wanted to do something where he could help people, stay active, and avoid working behind a desk. He entered the United States Air Force at age 25 as a firefighter, with six-month deployments to Afghanistan in 2004 and Iraq in 2005.
Before coming to Westover, he was stationed at Elmendorf AFB, in Anchorage Alaska for three and a half years, Otis AFB for eight months, and at Schriever AFB near Colorado Springs for two years. He was also deployed to Galina Alaska, near an Inuit village by the Yukon River for a month. Galina was supposed to be a one week posting, but was extended a month due to wildfires.
Not surprisingly, Captain Tibbetts does not care for the cold weather, having lived in it most of his life. His spends his free time with his family and keeping his children occupied. He is a sports fan of the Patriots and the Red Sox, and likes to fish, but doesn’t find much free time to do so.
Tibbetts says the best part of his job is the adrenaline when he gets the call, planning on the way to the incident and wondering what it may look like when he arrives on the scene. He likes the excitement of not knowing what is going to happen every day at work. Rich explained it could be anything from a plane crash to someone needing medical assistance; it's never the same.
360° ▸ What was your first fire?
Rich: It was in Alaska, at a car fire during the night. They use block heaters in Alaska to help keep car engines warm as it gets so cold. There are usually a couple of them a year, it started the whole vehicle on fire. I was the plugman on that one, hooked up the hose to the hydrant then got behind one of the hand linemen.
"A mass casualty incident came in... a tank rolled up and opened their door. There was blood everywhere."
360° ▸ The call you will always remember that had the most impact
Rich: When I was on deployment in Iraq, we were off-duty and other medics were short-handed. We lived close to the medic tent so we were on standby if they needed anything. A mass casualty incident came in... a tank rolled up and opened their door. There was blood everywhere. I remember I pulled out this lieutenant on a stretcher and his leg was beside him. I have never seen someone’s face so white before. He made it, but a couple of guys passed away, and I will definitely never forget that one.
360° ▸ Oddest or weirdest call?
Rich: The most awkward call was while I was in Colorado. There was a man, who while sitting on his toilet, had his hip “locked up”. I had to physically get behind him to lift him up while he was sitting there naked.
360° ▸ Funniest thing that happened to you on the job?
Rich: While I was stationed in Alaska, it was obviously always icy there, so the guys would go to get out of truck and slide and fall on their backs, but when you were on your last shift there you would get something called an Alaska Jacuzzi. The guys planned it for weeks, but they would make out of snow a pool, and fill it with water. Then they would tackle you, strap you on a backboard and put you in it. They would throw the nastiest junk in it, like whatever old food they could find, fish and stuff. That was crazy, but if they liked you they did that to you. That was the coldest I’ve ever been I think. Here on base we do joke around and do as much “pranking” as we can but without going over the line. We have to keep it light and not stressful.
First thoughts... for the last few questions tell me the first thing that comes to your mind.
One thing you are really good at?
I’m a good cook.
One thing you aren’t good at?
Probably just sitting around and not doing anything, being idle.
Favorite food while on duty?
Anything we do together, having any kind of family meal.
Your first thought when the alarm goes off?
One piece of equipment you rely on?
Nickname at work?
Tibby, at home it's Daddy.
Who has your back most at the firehouse?
All the guys do.
Something that you really love to do?
I like spending time with and teaching my kids.
If you could live anywhere in the world?
Somewhere warm, near the beach.
Can you dance?
Not really. I could dance, but am I good? I don’t know.
Copyright 2015 FIREGROUND360°. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the consent of FIREGROUND360° and it's authors.
Copyright 2014 FIREGROUND360°. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the consent of FIREGROUND360° and it's authors.
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Copyright FIREGROUND360°. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the consent of FIREGROUND360° and it's authors.