Teamwork 

While I was skimming through Pinterest I saw this quote posted by hhtp://hyplyrikz.com and it immediately jumped out at me. 

Looking back over my years as a middle manager I feel like this quote encompasses the route I tried to take when I made this rank. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like my team and I have accomplished and continue to “tweak” coming together, keeping together, and working together.

Here some things I found to be helpful when I became a supervisor of a large team  made up of smaller teams that work together in life and death situations. Teams that work, live, eat, and sleep together.

-Take the “we work together” approach. I despise saying my co-workers work under me or for me. I know all to well what it is like to feel insufficient simply because I was a lower rank. So when I took this supervisor position I decided to observe more at first than go in blazing with my shiny extra bugle on display saying “I’m the damn boss!!”

They already know I’m the boss. 

I was fortunate to take a position in a familiar area. I actually became a supervisor of men who had supervised me at one point. Talk about ackward! (That could make a whole separate blog!)

But that ackward was an advantage. I knew how they operated. I knew their triggers. I was ahead of the game coming together with them.

The ones I hadn’t worked with I observed. I let them do their thing. See how they operate. See how they handle their people. See how they handle chaos.

How long did I observe? Long enough to figure out what changes we needed to make for all of us to come together as a cehosive group. That time line could be different in other circumstances.

-Understand different management styles. Understand different methods of conflict resolution. Know when to use ANY of them. 

Policies, procedures, and laws aside, everyone has a different style of management. Your way might not be the right way in certain circumstances. Hell, it might just flat out suck for those you supervisor. Meanwhile your walking around like a cock. 🐓

Do you need to be an expert in all styles? No. You just have to be open to the FACT that there are other styles and that they might just work better than yours.

-Ask what they need in a supervisor. Most of my officers said they just wanted to be able to do their job and not be micromanaged. I completely get that because I don’t want to be micromanaged either. Especially after 20 years at the job.

It’s not hard to let people do their job if you have the mind set that you aren’t the “all knowing”. It’s not hard if you don’t have an ego the size and force of a freight train.

You don’t need to remind them or scold them on EVERY little thing. If all the little things become consistent problems then let them have it. But until then, have some confidence in your people.
-Have over all goals and make them clear to your team.

My goal: We all go home physically and mentally in tact. Instead of using dumb luck, let’s work safer and more efficiently. We need to share the work load.

I cut out some things that were breaking up our numbers and our crew integrity. I simply reiterated that operating safely and efficiently was my main focus. The more working hands, the better. And I kept it as consistent as possible. 
Some people who wanted to operate at the bare minimum just because that’s how it had always been done. But once they saw consistency and they saw the burden lifted off even their own shoulders, they understood and accepted it.

-Be a guide and a sounding board.

 When a crew is having issues amongst itself it is important to listen and guide the officer. Not immediately step in and take over unless it’s a safety issue. 

Don’t take power away from your officers. And don’t step in and do everything for them. Help them figure it out. Be open minded to how they may deal with something or someone. 

Who knows…They may be better at it than you. And you could learn something. 

-Last but not least, keep your mouth shut. Don’t go running your mouth about what someone asked or told you. Don’t share the issues with everyone else. That is the FASTEST way to destroy crew and team intergrity and make you look like nothing but an asshole.

Be aware that when you are constantly talking about things you don’t need to behind people’s backs, they eventually find out. And then all the trust and respect goes out the window.

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Thanks for taking time to read my post. Like and share for me if any of it made sense to you. Ha!

Turkey comas and dysfunction

Unbeknownst to us at the time this picture was taken, we had enough food to feed all the companies that respond on the 3rd alarm fire we had. We rotated crews to the station to eat a Thanksgiving meal.

Some days I absolutely amaze myself. They don’t happen often. As a matter of fact, it might only be once a month. The rest of the time I’m turning in circles wondering where to start.

This feeling reminds me of Thanksgiving Day 2017 when I found myself in the street looking at a 2nd alarm fire (it was only 2nd alarm at that moment). We had just finished our firehall Thanksgiving feast. I was making myself comfy on my couch when the tones hit. 

I’m not even sure how I got there. I was in a turkey coma and I just followed my firetrucks rolling out of the station. This day, I had to. I was so sleepy! Plus I didn’t hear the address. Ha!

I rarely lead the way to a call. In my opinion, the firetrucks need to roll in first. They are the most important and so is there placement. Some may say this is the wrong approach and that as a leader I should go in first. But I disagree in this situation. It took me a while to figure out my officers. To learn how they think. Learn how the respond to me. And I choose to LEAD from the back of the pack because I have faith in them.

It can be done. Pushing them forward. Letting them make decisions on their own and to take control. Hell, they are adults getting paid to make decisions. Most of my officers are seasoned and know what they are doing. They know their people the best. They and their drivers know the maximum abilities and limitations of their apparatus. Use that to your advantage.

They know I will make a decision.They know who is ultimately “in charge” (I don’t like that saying). They know when I say to do something a certain way then they need to do it because there is usually a reason. I don’t give out piddly orders just because I can. They also know that all responsibility falls on me if things goes wrong. And I have broad enough shoulders to take that. 

So back to Thanksgiving….

This is what we refer to as the fire “gettin’ it”. 

As I rounded the corner and said “Oh Shit” at the amount of flames literally roaring out the windows, I didn’t bother to look at any street sign. Genius. This building was a block long. In order to do a 360 I had to speed walk pretty far. (For those who know me, picture that in your head. Haha!). 

 While trying to direct incoming firetrucks to where they needed to go, I found myself a block down the road turning circles…. literally. I had no clue what street I was standing on. This moment later became the only way I could describe to a counselor and my psychiatrist, how I felt. Perfect analogy.

Just in case you need one I’m going to insert this here…

www.riverviewpsychiatry.com

Most supervisors will have very similar moments (turning in circles). And they won’t tell a soul. But me?? I think it’s funny. I can laugh at myself. I’m me and I’m not perfect. Do I often say “I’m not perfect”? Yes. Do I admit when I mess up? Yes. Do I share my story about literally turning in circles in the street? Yes, obviously I do. 

I posted on Facebook and in a recent blog about pulling into the driveway and thinking the newspaper was a cat. I had someone comment “I can’t believe you would post that.” 

Well why not? A huge part of fire service in EGO. And ego, in my opinion, holds us back. Ego tells us we are all knowing, we are perfect, our way is the only way. And that just simply isn’t true. Ego tells us that those we supervise are literally beneath us. That definitely isn’t true.

Our people are assets. Treating them as such gets you further. Letting them know that you aren’t perfect too isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s just simply a way to communicate with your people. Letting them know that despite wanting things to go perfectly, they won’t. And you know that from experience.  


a 360- the term we use in the fire service to describe walking around the entire structure (360°) involved in fire in order to see everything, such as fire extent, exposures, potential hazards or suppression hindrance.

July 16, 2015

WARNING: This is going to be a long post. So grab a drink or some ice cream. I haven’t talked much about it since it happened. And I’ve only sat down once before now and written anything down. I don’t know why I haven’t been able to. My role was totally insignificant compared to those who sacrificed their lives and those men who charged in and kill that piece of shit.  

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It’s been 2 years since the terrorist attack in Chattanooga. Althought I wasn’t in the gunfight or have direct contact with the victims, that day messed me up. I’ve been different ever since.

 A huge part of me believes that I’m ridiculous for being so torn by it when I wasn’t directly involved with those who died. I didn’t fire a weapon or get shot at. But when you work in emergency services you never really know which call will effect you. So I guess this one got me and now I am trying to give myself a break and share my little piece of that day. 

Some would say that September 11th changed their view of the world. Back then I was 26 years old, single, with no kids. I had only about 4 years under my belt as a firefighter. I was still 10ft tall, bullet-proof, and naive. And although it did have an effect on me, I wasn’t physically there. It had no direct impact on my life.  14 years later I found myself standing in the middle of a highway trying to provide some organized help to chaos and keep account of men and women that weren’t normally under my command. 

Let me sidetrack here a minute and explain some relevant information about myself. If you know me well you can scroll past  this. Haha! For those that don’t know me, I have been certified as a “police officer” since 2003.  But you won’t see me walking around writing tickets or arresting people. Most people don’t even know. 

I attended the local police academy. At that time I was a Lieutenant for the fire department. POST (Police Officer Standard Training) is a requirement in order to be a Fire Investigator on our department. I had applied for and gotten that position. 

Although 5 years as a fire investigator gave me a huge amount of experience in law enforcement, I have NEVER been a patrol officer. And that is where you really become a cop. I have maintained my POST in order to have an extra layer of protection for myself, my family, and my coworkers.

Not too long ago I was talking with a group of cop friends during the yearly police in-service. We were discussing the 16th and how there wasn’t any mention of me in the federal reports….or any reports that we knew of. Although I am grateful I wasn’t mentioned, I know I was there. So do about 100+ law enforcement officers I came in direct contact with that day.

During our lunch break from class, I found myself having an overwhelming need to write stuff down about that day. I hadn’t at all up until that point. I had even been asked by our state fire academy and the local Homeland Security office to write a synopsis of what all we did that day. I didn’t write down a single word. I just simply couldn’t. But that day, after talking with friends, I found myself writing…..

Not writing what we did, but writing about how ANGRY I was. I was pissed off over just about anything and everything. I had gone from a “realist” to a “pessimist”. And despite all I had seen and done in my career, I had remained a realist until that day. Afterwards I was nothing but short tempered, paranoid, and negative.

After a long time and some counseling through our Employee Assistance Program, here is what I determined to be a huge factor in why this anger I had was so overwhelming….

With all my experience of law enforcement meshed with fire service, I began to ask for some sort of cross-training between our fire and police departments YEARS before this event. Even if it was just simple “awareness” training for our firefighters on what to watch for on medical calls. Something. Anything. Because I had this overwhelming feeling that something shitty would happen.

You want to know what I got from our training chief at that time? “This is Chattanooga. Nothing is going it happen here.” I also got told by another chief “We can’t be letting them use our trucks in those situations (situations like Columbine High School). What if they get bullet holes in them? We would have to pay to get them fixed.” We spend our careers training for shit we hope never happens. How is was this any different??

Well, at that point I said “Forget you”.  Not literally. Just in my head. Because at that time I still had a filter.  I contacted the person who was over the SWAT team at the time. I let them come to one of my firehalls and look at all the rescue equipment we had. I let them ride up in the platform (bucket on the end of an aerial firetruck). I let them see how we crank the trucks…just in case they needed to use one. Just opening up a line of communication with the guys who would be there for my people. 

I’m not stupid. And they aren’t either. We all know that using our equipment to do something miniscule is out of the question. But I told them if they’ve got a downed officer in the middle of a shit storm or victims bailing out second-story windows and I’m there, take one of my trucks. Or hell I’d drive it for them.

Of course adminstrations changed and little was done with my proposal. Following adminstrations did not give  a shit either. Again…. “That sort of thing won’t happen here”.  Well here we are several years later with a local kid going radical and killing 5 of our military personnel. Terrorism right in the middle of our fucking yard.

NOW they want to get together and have some training with each other. And apparently have a committee working on it. So I guess that is a positive. But it should have been started ages ago. 

    The entire time I stood in that road I was protected. Protected by men and women that lay their lives down every time they go to work. Multiple local and regional departments, state troopers, ATF, FBI, DEA, Sheriff’s Department….all surrounding me. Patient, calm, and very respectfully. 

    As a Battalion Chief I live, eat, breathe Incident Command. Form a plan. Provide resources. Keep accountability. And that is all I did on July 16th.
    I remember thinking that at some point one or more of those cops would ask what in the hell a fire chief was doing telling them where to go….why in the hell they had to give me their name…why in the hell they had to report back to me when they left the hot zone… 

    But never once did that happen. They were nothing but respectful.

    I knew over half the faces. Some where people I consider friends. Some I have a huge amount of respect for. ALL of them I was proud of. What hit me most about that day was not the killings. It was watching those men and women run forward to save others. 

    All I can really think of to describe what I witnessed is “Awe”. I love my local law enforcement. I wish everyone would take time to really, truly get to know them. Cops are humans like the rest of us.

     That day I witnessed them go above and beyond to save countless lives. Far and above anything I had witnessed before. And it makes me angry that there are people out there that refuse to treat them with the respect that they deserve. 

    We live in an incredible country. We have freedoms and opportunities that majority of the world never know. We have people all around us that sign up to be there on our worst day.

    Yet we take complete and total advantage…and then ask for more. And we want to buck and defy a system in place that is trained to respond to situations like this. A terrorist attack. By a local. In our city. 

    I was not looking forward to being on duty today because it is the second anniversary. I said “it is a shitty day to be on duty”. But a friend of mine said 

    “It’s not a shitty day. It’s a day to remember what they sacrificed. To bring to light the things that need to change.”

    Words that struck me to the core. “To bring to light the things that need to change”. We all need to remember what these men and their families and friends sacrificed. And what those who are still living sacrifice every day. 

    Remember, respect, and make changes.