Every so often it is healthy to step back, take a look at your own situation objectively and ask yourself questions. Fire officers are no different. Many an IC has lost sleep replaying a fire call over and over in his mind, reviewing what went right, what went wrong and how to improve for next time. Inevitably, that officer will eventually turn inward and review his own actions and how they affected how the incident was brought to its conclusion.

“Fireground Strategies: Control the Fireground to Control the Fire,” an FDIC Hands-On Training (H.O.T.) workshop developed by Deputy Chief Anthony Avillo, North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire & Rescue sought to challenge officers and prospective officers regarding their preparation, attitude, philosophical approach, and operational and organizational skill both in the hard environment (on the fireground) and in the soft environment (the areas and time when they are preparing yourself and their subordinates for the fireground).

“This course helps officers look inside themselves and look at their departments and answer the questions: ‘What kind of officer am I?’ and ‘What type of organization do I work for?’ ” said Avillo. “Am I really an officer who looks out for his subordinates? Or do I use lip service and then do not practice what I preach?”

The workshop discussed why the insignias on the officer’s collar stand for “conflict and confrontation” and helped students to see that these seemingly negative connotations are actually leadership virtues for the effective officer. “We have to be able to control ourselves and not take the fire so personally,” he said.

Targeted at any officer or anyone aspiring to be an officer, Avillo hopes the class was a wake-up call for many officers who have become complacent and allowed their subordinates to follow that path as well. “You only need to change a little bit to begin to be a more effective officer,” he said. “Once that change begins, the potential is limitless. Firefighter safety and operational preparation begins well before the alarm. It is the effective officer who takes advantage of the 99 percent soft environment time to be a true leader in the one percent world.”

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