Tactical Safety: Leadership over Fire

By Ray McCormack

There are two main forms of leadership in the business of firefighting. Organizational leadership and unit leadership, the big picture and the troops on the ground, respectively. From the creation of operational procedures to their tactical application, one leadership set provides the framework to battle fire whereas the other performs the battle.

The ground game of firefighting is won on the streets by firefighters and bosses working to accomplish tactical goals. The ground game is also won by upper management supplying the troops with the required assets. Are the accurate response resources provided?  Have the firefighters been given solid operational plans along with and solid training? Firefighters on the ground get it done, no doubt, but without leadership in the form of support from the administration and unit leaders both prior to the event and after, our fights are more difficult and more dangerous.

Fire organizations need to provide leadership over fire by being tuned into the needs of the troops on the ground. For the check-markers this includes all the incident commander’s boxes, especially logistics and planning. Leadership over fire by the troops on the ground is a whole different form of leadership. Not having a piece of equipment you felt was necessary to increase efficiency on the fireground is a logistics issue. Arriving as the first-in company with fire on two floors of a building requires leadership you can’t get with a requisition slip.

What does it take to have leadership over fire at the tactical field level? Knowledge of how fire behaves and travels, ventilation options, stretching requirements, and a whole list of other qualifying tactical specialties, but there needs to be more.  It also needs to be personal!  The best leadership over fire occurs when we have people who know their jobs, are able to make quality decisions in the blink of an eye, and have a team that believes in them and is able to carry their plan out with resolve.

Challenges are always just around the corner and you need to be prepared for them.  Work to improve your department’s ability to provide both styles of leadership over fire and you will acquire improved tactical safety.

Next Tactical Safety – Great Expectations

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Ray McCormack: Tactical Safety for Firefighters

RAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine.

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